|AMERICAN GUITAR Van Manakas|
Virtuosity speaks for itself. But I'm going to ramble on about other aspects of this fine, fun record along with the absolutely mindbending guitartistry of this soft spoken Telecaster wizard. The country and swing compositions are more than just challenging foils for his fret popping improvisations. All the songs have memorable instrumental hooks and inspired arrangements, but most importantly, they are played with great humor and reckless abandon. These last two qualities elevate the record from the stiffer feel of some otherwise good instrumental records. The veteran Nashville crew that Van gigs and records with play with knucklehead genius and a go-for-it attitude, and they make the disc feel more like a jam session. Hall of Famer Doug Jernigan on the pedal steel just can't be beat, and is equally and completely at home in all the different grooves, from swing to ballad to boogie and beyond. One of the kings of hillbilly jazz, he's also featured on the classic recording with Vassar Clements and Stephane Grappelli.
One might think in the guitar era that instrumental guitar records would be huge sellers. Fact is, they do sell very well, in certain areas. In the rock genre, Jeff Beck has sold scads of records, as has Joe Satriani, and jazz has a long and steady tradition of guitar legends that sell very respectably. Although country guitar has spawned no shortage of modern greats (Albert Lee, Ray Flacke, Danny Gatton, and the Hellecasters come quickly to mind, although there are many others) in general, I think the buying public doesn't really know how hip and entertaining instrumental country guitar is. If you don't have one in your collection, we suggest adding this disc to your CD rack. Turn it up at your next party, see if you don't raise a few eyebrows. FG