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I'm A Guitar Man

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Album Review

Guitarist Al Casey launched his recording career working on Lee Hazlewood's early productions in Phoenix, Arizona, played alongside Duane Eddy on a handful of his early hits, and later became a first-call session man in Los Angeles, where he accompanied the likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and the Beach Boys. Casey's reputation was such that he actually got billing alongside the headline artists on many singles, and he also cut a handful of memorable records on his own when he wasn't busy playing sharp, agile blues and jazz-influenced guitar figures on other folks' sessions. I'm a Guitar Man is a two-disc set that collects 59 tunes Casey played on during his early days in Arizona, both as a headliner and as a sideman, and it's a very entertaining collection that confirms his consistent skill as a guitarist as well as the strength of the Arizona music scene in the 1950s and early '60s. I'm a Guitar Man opens with Casey's first major hit, playing some crisp, twangy lines behind Sanford Clark on "The Fool," and the picker doesn't miss a step throughout the rest of the package, whether he's helping to back up vocalists like Clark, Jody Reynolds, or Don Cole, or stretching out on his own instrumental sides (Casey also sang lead on a few singles, though he wisely believed he was best off sticking to novelty numbers like the playfully boastful "I'm a Guitar Man"). The quality of Casey's playing — always tasteful and on point but never intrusive — is impressive throughout, and if the quality of the material is a bit uneven, most of it is quite good, and the players working along with Casey are similarly impressive. Some of these tracks were obviously rescued from vinyl sources, but the mastering has kept most of the noise to a minimum. Fans of first-generation rock & roll will find plenty to enjoy on I'm a Guitar Man, and it's an excellent summary of Casey's early body of work; an overview of his California years would be a fine and very welcome sequel.


Born: 15 September 1915 in Louisville, KY

Genre: Traditional Pop

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Longtime session guitarist Al Casey is most noted for the records he made with producer Lee Hazlewood, with artists like Duane Eddy and Sanford Clark. He also has made numerous records on his own, reaching his commercial peak in the early 1960s, when a few of his instrumental (or mostly instrumental) surf and R&B-rock singles made the Top 100. In the '60s and '70s, he worked often as a session player in Los Angeles, and was still putting out records under his own name in the '90s. Casey was still...
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