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The Return of the Hellecasters

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Album Review

From the impossibly fast ascending arpeggios in the intro to "Highlander Boogie," the first track on this, the Hellecasters' debut album, country guitar nuts will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are in for a real treat. Start to finish, the Hellecasters (guitarists Jerry Donahue, John Jorgenson, and Will Ray) barrage the listener with their phenomenal chops, but they do so all in good fun and with a zany sense of humor. This charming playfulness that pervades The Return of the Hellecasters prevents their virtuosity from ever becoming a bore. Of the three guitarists, Donahue is probably the best-known from his work with Fairport Convention and Joan Armatrading. He has ample room to demonstrate his prodigious string-bending techniques. Jorgenson is the most rock-oriented of the three, a fact that is given away during his first solo of the album, where he almost immediately falls into fingertapping à la Eddie Van Halen. Ray's tricky guitar work is best characterized by his use of the slide ring, which allows him to move back and forth between slide and conventional guitar playing extremely rapidly. His version of "Sweet Dreams" is exquisite, coming close to the high standard of the Roy Buchanan version to which Ray offers his in tribute. In fact, the songs on The Return of the Hellecasters are almost all very strong, ranging from a cover of Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn" and the Gipsy Kings' "Passion" to original compositions by all three Hellecasters. Of these, Jorgenson's "Back on Terra Firma" and Donahue's "King Arthur's Dream" are the most memorable, with soaring themes and quiet, haunting interludes. Despite the almost unfair amount of technical virtuosity possessed by these three players, their collective studio experience shows through in their restraint (yes, they know when to play fast and slow), attention to detail, and exemplary tone. The high point of any of the guitarists' recorded output, The Return of the Hellecasters is also one of the finest instrumental guitar recordings of the '90s.

Customer Reviews

Hellishly Good Rockin'

They went to a studio . . . but they took their guitars to Hell! John Jorgenson, Will Ray, and Jerry Donahue rip it up on this side-project 1993 debut release. The digital version loses some the inherent warmth of the vinyl release, but the recording still pulses with the power generated by some of the best guitar licks ever laid down. Good stuff worth having in your digital library.

Steel Man

Quality recording, quality guitars, seasoned musicians. These guys are hitting every note, every lick with surgical precision. If you like talent, you will like the Hellecasters!


Formed: 1991

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Comprised of three fine Telecaster-wielding guitarists (former Fairport Convention member Jerry Donahue, Desert Rose Band founder John Jorgenson, and session musician Will Ray), the Hellecasters won significant praise from guitar fanatics for the blistering roots and country-rock of their 1993 debut, The Return of the Hellecasters. Escape From Hollywood...
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The Return of the Hellecasters, The Hellecasters
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Customer Ratings