TeleMastersAquinnah Records ArlenRoth.com
Largely instrumental, upon cursory inspection this set of 16 tracks, mostly recorded in Nashville, ‘feels’ like a vanity project. A solitary listen provides evidence that TeleMasters goes well beyond that dismissive descriptor.
Woodstock’s Arlen Roth has been a name in Telecaster circles for decades, and just because some of us (hands up) haven’t encountered him doesn’t shade his bonefides. A well-respected instructor and creator of instructional materials, Roth has been a recording artist in his own right while serving as a sideman and studio musician.
Joining Roth are some of the premier electric guitar players within roots and rock & roll including Albert Lee (a sizzling take of “Mrs. Robinson”), Brad Paisley (an equally impressive interpretation of a Roth original entitled “Bunky”), and Steve Cropper, who lets it fly instrumentally and vocally on “White Lightning.
The enjoyment felt by the players is readily apparent. Bill Kirchen touches down to jam on another Roth original, “Tuff Tele,” while Will Ray and Roth bring a fresh approach to “Rumble” without losing any of the original’s vigor. The spark of inspiration that Johnny Hiland and Roth bring to the ‘one-take’ “Funky Mama” is electric, while Vince Gill and Roth show a more sensitive side to their Telecasters within “Satisfied Mind.”
Steve Wariner (“Remington Ride”), Redd Volkaert (“A Minor Thing”, Brent Mason (“Roadworthy”), and Joe Bonamassa (“Joe’s Blues”) are other recognizable names who elected to join Roth on this Tele journey. The album’s biggest surprise may be the deconstruction and reconstruction of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” featuring Cindy Cashdollar:
Jack Pearson (not that Jack Pearson) plays and sings a couple, including a rather stunning “Keys to the Highway.” Roth’s daughter Lexie sings a breathy “Tennessee Waltz” and Sweet Mikey C. sings “Promised Land,” which also features Jack Donahue and Bryan Sutton, although I can’t honestly hear discern too much of the acoustic master’s playing within the mix—it’s there, just not as prominent as I would like.
TeleMasters isn’t something I would normally pick up. Glad I took the time to give it fair consideration. Telecaster and guitar enthusiasts will find much to appreciate and attempt to emulate within TeleMasters. With extensive notes and credits, the physical CD is suggested.