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Guitar Slinger

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Album Review

Vince Gill received one of the greatest gifts of his professional life when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011. One listen to Guitar Slinger, his first record in five years, makes it easy to comprehend why: he has carried the genre forward to embrace the rest of popular music without sacrificing its tradition. Gill can be forgiven for not recording for so long; after all, These Days was a four-disc set of all-new material. Guitar Slinger, co-produced by Gill with Justin Niebank and John Hobbs, compresses everything he displayed on These Days and more. Gill wrote or co-wrote all 12 of these songs. His astonishing musical range is readily on display, the diversity inseparable from his creative identity. You'd be forgiven for thinking, given its title, that Guitar Slinger primarily showcases Gill's enviable instrumental skills, but it's only a small part of the album's appeal. Though he plays plenty, this is a singer's and a songwriter's album. Gill moves effortlessly from place to place beginning with the slamming, '50s-styled rock & roll of the title track that opens the album and pays homage to everyone from Paul Burlison to Scotty Moore and Luther Perkins. From here, he does a modern Nashvillian take on blue-eyed country soul with "Tell Me Fool," which features gorgeous backing vocals by Bekka Bramlett, daughter Jenny Gill, Billy Thomas, and Chris Stapleton (some version of this foursome is everywhere present here). The album's first single, "Threaten Me with Heaven," co-written with wife Amy Grant (who appears on backing vocals) and Will Owsley, is a gorgeous pop-country love song delivered in Gill's silky yet impassioned voice. The kicker is in the gospel-inflected refrain that defies any listener to remain unmoved. "When the Lady Sings the Blues," with its hip Rhodes piano and electric blues guitar licks, digs deep into Southern R&B traditions. Guitar Slinger also looks at mortality squarely in a number of tracks here; something Gill hasn't done much of before. It's in the single's refrain to be sure, but there's also the honky tonk swinger "If I Die," the uptempo Bakersfield-styled country of "Billy Paul" (which details a murder-suicide), and the closing back country waltz "Buttermilk John." "True Love," the album's second single, is a beautiful duet with Grant; it's a breezy, bluesy paean to marital commitment, with tastefully arranged strings that underscore the lyrics and vocal deliveries without robbing them of their emotional power. "Bread and Water" is a 21st century country-gospel number that stays far afield from the saccharine nature of most efforts in this arena. "The Old Lucky Diamond Motel" is a retro-country waltz whose roots lie in the era before countrypolitain. Ultimately, with its ambitious range of music, Guitar Slinger proves that Gill just gets better with age. The album is not just the best country has to offer (if the genre were modeled on his standard, its radio stations would be difficult to turn off), but more: it's the best that pop music has to offer, too.

Customer Reviews

Tasteful and soulful

As he did with These Days, Vince Gill showcases his versatility here on a very welcome return to the recording studio after a lengthy hiatus.

There's no doubt that Mr Gill has one of the best voices in popular music. Bluesy and soulful, it's distinctively different to most other male country vocalists, and it's also a voice that blends beautifully with others, whether as a BV or on a duet, or with the excellent BVs on this record.

He's also a songwriter of great integrity who uses the power of his vocal and playing to lift any material above the ordinary.

As for that guitar slinging, there's no doubt in my mind that Mr Gill stands among the greatest instrumentalists working in country (or any genre) today. Like Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers, or George Harrison, he never puts himself before the song, playing what's appropriate and not burying the melody in flashy fretwork. While Keith Urban sometimes gets lost in shredding and Brad Paisley is the master of his pedal board, Mr Gill always uses his guitar to support the song. When he lets rip, he always raises the energy of a song, leaving it in a different, better place.

I concur with everything the main review above says. Personal favourites are "Tell Me Fool", which has a great groove, and "Threaten me with Heaven", which has a real emotional punch.

This Man deserves to be known by Many More

I came across Vince Gill through his playing on Joe Bonamassas Album and I am so glad I did. Not only is he a fantastic guitar player but he writes wonderful grown up songs. Listen to Hey God and I never knew Lonely to see what I mean. If you like country than you must have Vince Gill in your collection and if you like wonderful songs played by real talent than you must have Vince Gill in your collection.


Born: 12 April 1957 in Norman, OK

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Vince Gill paid nearly a decade-and-a-half of dues en route to becoming one of the most popular country stars of the '90s. Starting out as a bluegrass singer and multi-instrumentalist, he initially made his name with country-rockers Pure Prairie League and spent the '80s as part of country's new traditionalist movement before finding massive success as a contemporary country hitmaker. Gill had strong mainstream appeal, yet enough songwriting chops and grounding in tradition that he could maintain...
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