Paul Asbell

May 18, 2005

Few pickers work from as broad a stylistic palette as Paul Asbell. Subtitled Further Adventures in Steel-String Americana, his latest album includes a stunning interpretation of “Somewhere” from West Side Story (with sections of the melody played with a slide on a National Tricone resonator), a rollicking chord-melody take on Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” a swampy twist on Charlie Parker’s “Parker’s Mood,” a poignant version of “The Water Is Wide,” and a lazily swinging “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You.” Much of the album is instrumental, though Asbell adds vocals to several selections, including “Mystery Train” (where his Travis-picked flat-top shimmies with rockabilly slap echo) and a ragtime-drenched reading of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Windin’ Boy.” But on these tracks, it’s still his remarkable picking—delivered on an impressive collection of acoustic and electric guitars detailed in the liner notes—that takes center stage. Asbell performs some tunes solo and is accompanied on others with different combinations of sax, harmonica, fiddle, percussion, and upright bass. At times, he even layers multiple guitars using a keen ear for timbral shading. Exquisite 6-string sounds. Busy Hands. —Andy Ellis

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