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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Review of Chicken Pickin' at it's Finest

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   Review: George Jones - Gospel Collection
Released: April 1, 2003
We will dive into this album with an open mind and the perspective of a rock guitarist to discover some priceless lessons about picking in the studio and bringing home the premium bacon, the kind not approved by WIC.

The great thing about highly commercialized music is that you get "the best of the best" musicians in the studio.  George  Jones is no starving African.  He not only can afford the most talented folks, but they would beg him to play anyway, for the  same reason that attorneys like to represent mass murderers in highly publicized hearings.  If you can say, "I played for  George Jones", then forget about being eligable for food stamps.
Does the name Brent Mason ring a bell?  He is the most used studio guitarist in Nashville. Brent is the primary source of superior electric guitar on this recording.  It would be virtually impossible  to determine who he did not play for.  Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Brooks & Dunn, George Strait, Neil Diamond and Shania Twain  would definitely recognize his name, since he is the engine that is driving their music to the top of the country charts.   Brent released his solo CD in 1997 entitled 'Hot Wired' and more recently 'Smokin' Section.'  If think you play guitar, then you should definitly give this hear.  There are some killer samples available on  You can also hear Brent rockin' commercials for Budweiser,  Miller Brewing, Betty Crocker, Sears, Michelob, Ford and Wrangler. 
If you think country music is easier to play than shred metal, in the words of Judas Priest,"You've Got Another Thing  Comin'."  This dual CD release  is packed full of skilled musicianship, played with tons of taste and nothing that could be  interpreted as a mistake.  If you are learning to bend and slide on strings, this is your guide to perfection.  It does not  rock; It does not roll, but as long as the Honky Tonk Bars and the Cowboy Churches are paying, you'll need to keep this beauty at the top of your playlist.
George takes the leadership role and sets the parameters for each tune, while the musicians follow and respond accordingly. His famously infamous Honky Tonk drinking lifestyle is the foundation for the musical direction of this project.  Although he has not had any legal problems since 1999, when he was found in a wrecked car with a half-full bottle of vodka, his Honky Tonk history comes shining through his voice and technical choices of this recording.  His voice has permanently misplaced it's upper range, never to return to him again in this lifetime, although he sings with enough conviction to pass an audition to the heavenly choir.  There are points in his vocal performance on the CD that make me question how well he will perform live.  I found myself saying, "If this is the best he can do in a million dollar studio, then how is he going to handle the real world?"  I suppose he will need to use enough "star power" to make his audience numb throughout his performance.  I promise you that musicians will not be disappointed by the live show.
George did not compose any of the songs or music, so there is not much I can say about the lyrical content. Almost all of the tunes are public domain or considered as "traditional" with no composer.  By the title, "Gospel Collection," you should be able to decipher that the lyrics are about Jesus, God, Heaven and the like.
You can legally listen to samples on the following site: 0:gzfyxqealdhe
Song by Song Review:
Lonesome Valley - You could play this intro tele lick in any local redneck joint and they're sure to buy you a drink.
Just a Little Talk With Jesus - Tons of awesome chikin pickin, especially the reoccouring intro lick.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot - A lot of great blues bending. Listen to how the guitarist constantly changes pickups for consecutive licks within the same solo.  At 1:05, listen to how the lead guitar (in neck position) interacts with the background vocals to guide the turnaround of the tune. You can hear the bending version at exactly 2:00.
Why Me Lord? - A perfect example of how to get "steel guitar" licks on a telecaster. 
Lonesome Valley - Not a significant solo here, but the guitar is playing a repetitive single note Pentatonic riff and guides the change when George sings, "You gotta Walk."
When Mama Sang - Listen to how a chicken picker can utilize slap-back delay.

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