Friday, February 15, 2008

The Hellecasters - Essential Listening

Instrumentals have been a mainstay of rock and country since their inception, and those driven by electric guitar have popped up repeatedly since the instrument's invention. From steel-and-guitar combos like Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant to Buck Owens & Don Rich's twin telecasters to British Invasion acts like The Shadows to innumerable surf bands to fusionists like Joe Satriani and recent instrumental bands like Los Straitjackets, the electric guitar has logged a lot of time in the spotlight.

The trio of guitarists that make up the Hellecasters (Fairport Convention's Jerry Donahue, The Desert Rose Band's John Jorgenson, and session picker Will Ray) are all masters of the six-string sting. Their talents include firebrand flat-picking, cozy slide playing, nearly inhuman string-bending and the sort of finger-tapping histrionics that fueled many of Eddie Van Halen's solos. What makes their music unique is that the guitar isn't the spotlight for a solo, it's the basis. And it's not one virtuoso, it's three, trading licks and prodding each other to ever greater heights.

This first disc for Hightone, is a kind of greatest hits comp with 2 new cuts. It continues their application of legendary playing to a broad array of originals and a cover of Noel Redding's "Little Miss Strange." The glee in their trio playing keeps this from being an academic exercise, and the constant onslaught of guitar pyrotechnics is wonderfully intense yet never overpowering. As catchy as some of the melodies are, the laid-back, languorous solos are generally outweighed by dramatic, heavyweight playing. Sure to be a favorite of all guitar fans, especially if you like a little countrified twang.

1. Disintonation 2. Valley Of The Pharaohs 3. Ghosts Of 42Nd Street
4. Little Miss Strange 5. Back On Terra Firma 6. Riddler's Journey
7. Danger Man 8. Le Journee Des Tziganes 9. Mr. Natural
10. Axe To Grind 11. Deiter's Lounge 12. Almost Dawn 13. Bucket Of Fish



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