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Blues, Waltzes and Badland Borders

John Platania

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Album Review

The focus of this album is instrumental, but that's not quite the same thing as saying that it's an instrumental album. Guitarist John Platania was cajoled into making this disc by Chip Taylor, himself a guitarist and also a producer and owner of the Train Wreck label. But instead of making a straight-ahead album of fancy guitar tunes, Platania decided to make something a little stranger: a collection of guitar tunes with a weird assortment of spoken and sung vocals woven through them. Thus, on the album-opening "Runnin' with the Dogs" you get a brief disquisition by actor Jon Voight (Taylor's brother) on the nature of bordertown culture; on "In Memory of Zapata" you get a reading by Alejandro Escovedo and an all-too-brief vocal segment by Lucinda Williams; and on the bluesy strut "Texas Sexy Ways" you get some real singing by Platania himself, and you're left wishing he'd sung more. Throughout the whole thing you get some very tasty slide, electric, and fingerpicked acoustic guitar work from both Platania and Taylor, and the result is, for the most part, very satisfying — note in particular the slide guitar and tabla workout "Suite 35." On the downside, you also get "Child Heroes," a song that features a children's chorus singing about glorious martyrdom and managing somehow to be simultaneously repulsive and cloying. Formally speaking, that's an impressive feat, but it's not one to be especially proud of. Recommended overall.

Blues, Waltzes and Badland Borders, John Platania
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