Saturday, April 30, 2011

If you could play like Chet ...

When we heard Steve Wariner has a new instrumental album out (Guitar Laboratory, buy it now!) we got to wondering: Does the cat sing any more, because he certainly had a voice years ago when he was generating a batch of mainstream country hits.

We understand how someone who appears to be the reincarnation of Chet Atkins might gravitate to instrumental work, but that's not how we remember discovering Wariner. No, it happened like this ...

Years ago we were sitting in a bar in Centerville, Wis., which is just this side of nowhere, and a song came on the jukebox that got us jumping. It was a Pat McLaughlin tune we had been playing that whole summer, only the voice coming out of the speakers wasn't Pat's. It was Wariner singing "Lynda," one of three No. 1 singles off his 1987 album It's a Crazy World.

What the ...

Now many of you still haven't heard of Pat McLaughlin despite our continuing efforts to usher him into your musical lives. All the more reason to be amazed then, as we were at the time, that one of our favorite artists -- a virtual unknown outside of Nashville -- had cracked the jukebox circuit. Or so we thought. We listened to Wariner's cover, at the same time amazed and disappointed, then put our money in the box and played it again, and again.

We didn't know Wariner from a morel mushroom, but learned right then and there that the man could play a guitar. And even though he had "stolen" a song we knew as Pat's, he was doing it justice. Click above and hear for yourself.

Now, almost 25 years later, we're listening to Guitar Laboratory and thinking it might deserve to be in the pickin' parlor company with Bill Frisell's Nashville. But we gotta say: We still like our guitar music sprinkled with an occasional vocal, especially if it's coming from the soulful pipes of Pat McLaughlin.

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