Blues Bytes


May 2015

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James Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett & David Wilcox
Guitar Heroes
Stony Plain Records

Guitar Heroes

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 artistic 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.

--- Graham Clarke
Read Graham's blog

Recorded live at the Vancouver Music Festival in July 2013, Guitar Heroes (Stony Plain), a collection of performances by James 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.

On the 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.

The playing 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


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