Emmylou Harris Elite Hotel, Pieces of the Sky, Luxury Liner, Blue Kentucky Girl, Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town When your group boasts pickers like James Burton and Albert Lee, you almost have to call it the Hot Band—and that’s just what Emmylou Harris did. With her bad-ass backing band—which, at different times, featured the likes of Ricky Skaggs and Rodney Crowell—Harris proved that country music can be whatever you want it to be and still be country. These five rereleases, which span the 1975-1979 period of her career, not only contain classic guitar work from Lee and Burton, but each remastered disc contains two bonus tracks as well. WB/Rhino. —Darrin Fox Steve Morse Major Impacts 2 Like a brilliant classical composer, Steve Morse has an uncanny knack for hearing an elaborate arrangement of interlocking melodies and timbres in his head and then bringing it to life as a living, breathing piece of music. Instead of drawing from a concert hall full of orchestral instruments, however, Morse creates his symphonies using a home studio packed with amps and guitars. The second in a series, this soaring, lyrical album pays tribute to the artists and composers who have influenced Morse over the years, including Crosby, Stills & Nash, Aerosmith, and the Yardbirds. The album’s one solo piece, “Air on 6-String,” is an electric-guitar homage to Bach, and Morse’s spectacular single-note licks prove just how powerful six strings and a plectrum can be in the hands of an ace guitarist. (To learn some of these amazing maneuvers note-for-note, check out Morse’s Rock Guru column) Nobody stacks guitar tracks as masterfully as Morse, perhaps because he can play just about any style, from hard rock to Celtic to classical to blues to country. He’s one of those rare cats who truly is a jack-of-all-trades, yet is a master of all. Magna Carta. —Jude Gold Mike Stern These Times Fuelled by a stellar cast of accompanists, Stern’s polished yet gutsy guitar playing positively burns throughout these 11 innovative compositions. Stylistic colorings as diverse as Jaco-era Weather Report, traditional Pakistani vocal music, Brazilian jazz, and deep Delta blues are only part of the rich aural tapestry on display here—all skillfully blended into a surprisingly coherent and highly musical whole. Producer Jim Beard contributes keyboards on all tracks, along with bassists Will Lee, Richard Bona, and Victor Wooten; drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Dennis Chambers; percussionists Arto Tuncboyaciyan and Don Alias; saxmen Kenny Garrett and Bob Franceschini; and vocalist Elizabeth Kontomanou. There’s even a cameo by banjo player extraordinaire Bela Fleck. Stern’s guitar sounds run the gamut from heavily chorused and percussive single-note rhythmic pulses, to clean chordal washes, to sweet bluesy bends and moans, to screaming full-on-fusion fusillades—sometimes all within a single composition. Even if you are turned-off by the usual “jazz-rock fusion” fare, you might want to give this disc a listen, as Stern manages to breathe new life into what has become a generally geriatric genre. ESC. —Barry Cleveland
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