The Guitar Sounds of James Burton

by: James Burton

James Burton has a well-deserved reputation as one of the finest guitar pickers in either country or rock, having played subtly dazzling solos on sessions for everyone from Ricky Nelson and Dale Hawkins to Buffalo Springfield and Gram Parsons, and he's also played alongside both Elvises -- Presley and Costello. However, Burton's virtuoso talent was not paired with a desire to either sing or take the spotlight (perhaps a blessing in disguise), and The Guitar Sounds of James Burton is something of a disappointment for longtime fans of the shy genius. Here, Burton and an (unfortunately uncredited) band of top-shelf studio musicians run through a set of pop and rock hits of the day (including a few that were mainstays of his sets with Presley during the Las Vegas years), with two loose-limbed originals thrown in for good measure (one of which, "Long Reach," is a none-too-subtle rewrite of Tommy Johnson's "Cool Drink of Water Blues"). The performances are solid and Burton is in typically impeccable form, but the arrangements aren't especially imaginative, so if you were hoping for a definitive musical statement from one of the best guitars players to ever touch a fretboard, you're out of luck. On the other hand, if you want to hear James Burton and some other fine players stretch out and play up a storm on a dozen tunes without a lead singer to get in the way, then The Guitar Sounds of James Burton is just what you've been looking for; it's hardly a masterwork, but anyone who loves Burton's picking will find it as refreshing as a cold drink on a hot day. ~ Mark Deming

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