It’s a fine time to be an old-school country music fan, what with the current crop of albums featuring classic songwriting and downhome hot picking.
Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s duet proves the point. It’s a marriage made in some sort of honky-tonk heaven: along with their solo ventures, Alvin hails from the Blasters and Gilmore from the Flatlanders. Together, they wail like a stellar Saturday night.
The title track features vocals from both, swapping verses and even lines, all highlighted by a scorching solo from Alvin’s white Stratocaster. “K.C. Moan” boasts fine acoustic fingerpicking accented by moody slide, before that Strat breaks in with anthemic licks. “The Gardens” is pure West Texas lament backed by tasty accordion and acoustic guitar.
Throughout, Alvin and Gilmore’s album offers powerhouse country rock. You can’t go wrong – and won’t want to miss out.
Colter Wall returns from his native Saskatchewan with his sophomore album. With his impossibly basso voice, stylish fingerpicking, and evocative lyrics, the album’s a jewel. Cut at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, the album features country’s current “It” producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton) on acoustic guitar, drummer Chris Powell (Jamey Johnson), Robbie Turner (Waylon Jennings, Chris Stapleton) on pedal steel, and pianist Mike Webb.
“Motorcycle” rides atop Wall’s driving fingerpicking and subtle pedal steel with lovely lyrics. “Codeine Dream” also has stylish fingerpicking backed by Dobro accentuating the world-weary vocals.
Parker Millsap’s third album moves between country, rock, and pop. He plays the lead guitar himself, offering dynamic picking and hook-filled themes and solos. His songs boast a literary edge, touching on love and loss. The opening track, “Fine Line,” is explosive, somewhere between a Sun Records track and AC/DC.
Johnny Hiland is all about his trademark 10-gallon hat, but at the same time he makes no apologies for his infatuation with ’80s over-the-top rock. He’s always kept one foot in country, the other tapping out time in shred.
As usual, he and his guitar dazzle throughout. But when he takes on J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze,” he plays it like a hurricane at full throttle and you almost forget that Cale or Lynyrd Skynryd’s versions ever existed.
This article originally appeared in VG August 2018 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.