Various Artists
Masters of the Steel String Guitar
Arhoolie (

cd cover This CD contains live recordings from the Masters of the Steel String Guitar national tour, showcasing American guitar music. The history of American guitar playing is rooted in fields, roads, front porch jams, and the ladies' front parlor-and Masters makes you feel right at home.

The four main guitar artists on the album are Johnny Bellar, John Cephas, Wayne Henderson, and Eddie Pennington. They are supported by Linda and David Lay (vocals and rhythm guitar) and Phil Wiggins (harmonica). Each one represents different playing techniques and song styles, from Appalachian fiddle tunes to folk standards such as "John Henry," ethereal lap steel originals, and chain gang blues.

True feeling flows from the performances, all in crystal clear sound quality. Eddie Pennington injects hilarity into "Lost John" with the lyrics Well I hated goin down to lost John's house, and I'll tell you the reason why / He blowed his nose in the corn bread and called it raisin pie." John Cephas bemoans the convict's lot on Skip James' "Prison Blues," and Johnny Bellar soars with the instrumental "Northern Lights."

For a historical addition to a roots music collection, an introduction to guitar picking styles, or just a knee-slappin' good time, don't pass up Masters of the Steel String Guitar. - Rob Seiden

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