CD Reviews: Editors' December 2013 Faves

January 10, 2014

Steve Wariner
On his first non-instrumental album in more than eight years, Wariner shows his skills as a songwriter (having written or co-written all the tunes), vocalist, and guitarist—which makes sense, of course, as he was long ago awarded “Certified Guitar Player” status by none other than Chet Atkins. The album has flavors of country, R&B, and rock, though the tunes presented here steer mainly in an easygoing direction that perfectly suits Wariner’s knack for storytelling, which he displays so naturally on tunes like “’48 Ford,” “Arrows at Airplanes,” and the Bob Wills-ish “Bluebonnet Memories.” Not a lot of incendiary picking here, but great music throughout. SelecTone. —ART THOMPSON


Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas
Everyone knows Mickey Thomas is a great pop singer, but did you know he could rock? Like really rock? Well he can, and this record proves it. Part of the reason is that he’s accompanied by Jeff Pilson of Dokken fame, who wrote just about all the tunes, produced, and played almost all the instruments. Pilson’s guitar work is spot-on, with great tones, layers, and parts. Vegas badass John Wedemeyer turns in a great 6-string solo on “Nothing Can Keep Me from You,” and there’s also a guitar appearance from the late Mark Abrahamian, whom the touring band lost last year. Loud & Proud. —MATT BLACKETT

On their third release, Brooklyn-based Brett Parnell and Geremy Schulick augment their outstanding acoustic and nylon-string work with mandolin, electric guitar, intriguing effects treatments, and occasional contributions from five other artists, including drummer Evan Mitchell and violinist Andie Springer. The music is intelligent (Parnell and Schulick met while studying classical guitar at Yale), deep, and subtle, while at the same time being accessible and reflective of the duo’s cosmopolitan environment, with touches of postrock, psych-folk, Baroque-pop, and ambient stylings. Threefifty Duo. —BARRY CLEVELAND


Chick Corea
Heralded as Corea’s finest electric album in decades, The Vigil is a modern-jazz tour de force that brings welcome balance and cohesion to the often spectacular excesses of high-octane improvisational music. The band displays all the hurricane force of Corea’s past works with RTF, and though the music—which is tempered with Latin rhythms, modal swing, and acoustic forays—is less guitar-centric than when Al DiMeola was involved, there’s still plenty of inspired 6-string work by the lesser-known Charles Altura. With only one vocal piece featuring Corea’s wife Gayle, this otherwise instrumental album succeeds for inventiveness and sheer musical skill, and is definitely the best of the classic fusion genre that I’ve heard in ages. Concord Jazz. —ART THOMPSON

Lawson Rollins
You may remember nylon-string master Lawson Rollins from his feature in the 2/12 issue of GP. On his latest, he still displays the lilting melodies, strong compositions, and otherworldly chops that characterize all of his work. He plays beautiful, hummable lines on “The Offering,” and exotic harmonized parts on “Serpent’s Tale.” Then there are the blazing solo flights he embarks on every tune. These are simply dazzling—all played fingerstyle, with precision and passion—and will surely appeal to fans of Al Di Meola’s best work and forward-thinking classical guitar in general. Infinita. —MATT BLACKETT


Pete Anderson
While he’s probably best known for his roughneck honky-tonk playing with hillbilly crooner Dwight Yoakum, Pete Anderson goes for a funky, jump-blues thing on his latest solo release. Sounding more like Hollywood Fats with his greasy phrasing and stinging, reverb-soaked tones, Anderson also proves to be a soulful singer on these original tunes. With horns and keys giving it all some classic ’50s flair, the result is a groovefest that showcases a hip bluesy side of this erstwhile country twangster. Little Dog. —ART THOMPSON

Mike Swickis
On these five tunes, Mike Swickis manages to combine the hippest elements of jazz, funk, and rock, all with great tone and impeccable timing. His sense of space on “Stanley” is truly refreshing, he brings a funky meanness to “Wrist Rocket,” and he cranks out angular quirkiness on “Knuckleduster.” The other musicians are all stellar, and Swickis gives them ample room to do their thing. If you dig Larry Carlton, Oz Noy, or just music that’s really smart without being overly clever, you’ll dig this. It’s deep but totally accessible. Swickis. —MATT BLACKETT

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