James Burton, Albert Lee, Amos
Garrett & David Wilcox
Stony Plain Records
Whoever came up with Stony Plain’s latest project, a
collaboration between guitar legends James Burton
(Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Dale Hawkins, Emmylou
Harris, Merle Haggard), Albert Lee (Eric Clapton,
Harris, Rodney Crowell), Amos Garrett (Maria Muldaur,
Paul Butterfield, Bonnie Raitt, Harris, Great
Speckled Bird), and David Wilcox (Great Speckled
Bird, Muldaur), deserves a medal of some kind.
Billed as Guitar Heroes, this quartet was captured
live at Vancouver Island Musicfest in May of 2013.
The “whoever” in question is Doug Cox, the
director of the festival (and a talented guitarist
himself) who also co-produced this effort with Stony
Plain chief Holger Petersen. The foursome works
through 11 classic rock, blues, rockabilly, and
country tunes, and is backed by a rock-solid rhythm
section consisting of Jon Greathouse (keyboards,
lead vocals), Will McGregor (bass), and Jason
Harrison Smith (drums, background vocals).
This set is heaven to guitar fans from the opening
cut, a breathless working of Big Boy Crudup’s
“That’s All Right,” which gives each guitarist a
moment in the spotlight. Dale Hawkins’ “Susie Q,” is
another standout with Burton recreating his fretwork
from the 1957 original, and Garrett offers a dreamy
take on the Santo & Johnny instrumental standard,
“Sleep Walk,” all by himself. The easygoing cover of
Jimmy Rogers’ “You’re The One,” is a highlight,
taking it’s sweet time to develop with some nice
interplay between the guitarists.
“Comin’ Home Baby,” is one of four instrumentals on
the disc (the others are “Sleep Walk,” a deeply
soulful take of “Only The Young,” and a funky take
on “Polk Salad Annie”), and and it features two
outstanding solos from Wilcox, who also leads a
blistering “Flip, Flop, & Fly.” The set closes with
a ferocious version of Lee’s “Country Boy,” with the
British guitarist pulling out all the stops.
One of the coolest things about
Guitar Heroes is
that, according to the liner notes from Cox, it’s a
completely off-the-board recording, with no
overdubs, no fixes, edits, or patch jobs to be
found, and it shows the rapport that these guys
share, especially considering that it was a one-time
performance, is amazing to hear. It was initially
recorded to be presented as a souvenir for the
guitarists, but fortunately Stony Plain chose to
share it with all of us, which is good news indeed,
and hopefully a sign that we might hear more from
this quartet soon.
Recorded live at the Vancouver Music Festival in
July 2013, Guitar Heroes (Stony Plain), a collection of performances by
Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett and David Wilcox, is
nothing less than stunning.
With Lee on vocals, the
four players trade licks judiciously on "That’s All
Right Mama." James Burton’s chicken pickin’ stands
out. He played guitar with Elvis Presley on this
one. All four guitarists dazzle. The band, Joe
Greathouse (keys), Will MacGregor (bass) and Jason
Harrison Smith (drums) is first rate and Greathouse
takes the vocal on "Suzie Q," the 1957 Dale Hawkins
classic on which Burton played. Despite the
thousands of times that he likely played the song in
his lifetime, he breathes excitement and
chops-to-spare into it. Ditto his cohorts.
classic Santo and Johnny guitar and steel
instrumental "Sleep Walk," Amos Garrett takes the lead
role and does the song and himself proud. The Ray
Charles-penned "Leave My Woman Alone" is given a
country-flavored reading, with killer solos by all,
as well as an impressive piano solo. Like everything
here, this is democracy in action as the guitarists
take turns soloing, then stay out of each other’s
way and work beautifully together.
Wilcox, one of
the most influential players in Canada, takes the
vocal and guitar lead on "You’re The One." Burton is
especially amazing here. Wilcox gets more space to
play on the following "Comin’ Home Baby". The iconic
"Flip, Flop and Fly" gets universally bad ass playing
by all parties, with Wilcox on vocals. Wilcox, Lee,
Garrett and Burton take solos in order.
from all on the gorgeous "Only The Young" is
exceptional. "Polk Salad Annie" is energetic and "Bad
Apple," with Wilcox on vocals is impressive for the
playing. The closer, "Country Boy," as you might
expect, is a guitarists’ tour-de-force. Albert Lee
takes vocals and the lead guitar here.
If you’re a
fan of the electric guitar, this is vital.
--- Mark E. Gallo