Speedy West – Steel Guitar

Steel Guitar

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Sundazed’s Burton-Mooney collaboration, which balances restraint with fire, is this collection of singles by steel trickster Speedy West, which Capitol originally released in 1960. This, too, is a collaboration in that this collection of singles recorded between 1950 and ’55 features West’s longtime partner in speed, guitarist Jimmy Bryant, on all but one of the 11 tracks.
If Speedy’s brand of stunt steel sometimes resembles a Spike Jones record, it’s not surprising; he recorded with Spike – along with Tennessee Ernie Ford, Moon Mullican, Merle Travis, Merrill Moore, Frankie Laine, and countless others. Like Bryant, his personality invariably showed through, particularly his sense of humor. In conjunction, the pair could sound like it was goofing off while playing some of the most original, difficult guitar duals in history, often at a breakneck pace. The title of one instrumental, “Caffeine Patrol,” says it all. In just the intro to the opening track, “Speedin’ West,” Speedy displays practically his entire bag of tricks – his stuttering climbs up the neck, his trademark “bar crashing,” and wild wah effects (using his tone knob).
West could play pretty, too, as on the Hawaiian ballad “Our Paradise” and the mystical “West Of Samoa.” But what made Speedy and Jimmy great is that if they never sacrificed their personality on other artists’ sessions, they damn sure were going to cut loose on their own records, either as a team or backing each other. Listen to them trade choruses on “Flippin’ The Lid,” then pick your chin up off the floor.
Like the Burton/Mooney reissue, this clocks in under 30 minutes, but is priced to please, at $9.98. Skip a couple of lattes and pick it up.

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.

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