The first domestic CD release of this pickin’ fest from 1968 is cause for celebration. This all-instrumental outing featuring two of country’s greatest stylists – Tele maestro James Burton in his post-Ricky Nelson/pre-Elvis days, and pedal-steeler Ralph Mooney in his post-Buck Owens/pre-Waylon period – resulted in a dozen varied tunes showing the pair’s individuality and versatility.
Heads and solos are split up pretty evenly. For instance, Mooney takes the melody on “Spanish Eyes” with Burton adding a gut-string solo, and the steeler stands in for Merle Haggard’s vocal on “Lonesome Fugitive” so James throws in his famous solo from the hit recording. On “It’s Such A Pretty World Today,” Burton breaks out some of the wackiest wah-wah ever and swaps Dobro licks with Mooney’s steel on “Sneaky Strings.”
Originally produced for Capitol by Ken Nelson (Owens, Haggard, Kay Starr, Merle Travis, the Louvin Brothers, and many more), the session featured a superb backup band, with Al Casey and Don Owens on rhythm guitar, James Stewart on piano, Burton’s old partner in Ricky Nelson’s band, Joe Osborn, on bass, and future Domino (and co-composer of “Layla”) Jim Gordon on drums. The results sound spontaneous, but are no mere jam session; the emphasis is on the tunes.
We’re so conditioned to a CDs 80-minute capacity that it’s a little disconcerting to realize this (a straight reissue with no bonus tracks) is less than a half-hour in length. The trade-off is Sundazed’s price of $9.98 – an absolute steal.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.