Toolin’ Around Woodstock by Arlen Roth
Aquinnah Records – (6 2598957562)
Rating – 3 Stars
Country guitar maestro, Arlen Roth has gathered a selection of some of the best musicians, to help him bring life to his latest album.
He has sterling support from drummer and singer Levon Helm, best known from his work with the Band, Slide guitarist Sonny Landreth plays on a couple of pieces, guitarist and vocalist Bill Kirchen also adds his considerable expertise, whilst backing vocals are provided by the daughters of both Roth and Helm. A tight rhythm section of drummer Joe Bonadio, Matt Rae on rhythm guitar and bassists Paul Ossola and Mike Merritt all help to the add to the ambience.The music is warm, with toe tapping grooves, but a number of unusual choices. ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ starts things of in a rock and roll vein, whilst Joe South’s classic song ‘Games People Play’ is taken from its country rock roots, and becomes a showcase for the clean vocals and guitars of Arlen Roth and Bill Kirchen.
Dylan’s class ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ becomes a brooding, minor key shuffle, whilst a similar treatment is meted out to Chuck Berry’s ‘Deep Feeling’. The highlights of the album are a treatment of Santo and Johnny’s ‘Sleepwalk’ ‘Tumblin’ which is a snarling duet between the slide guitars of Sonny Landreth and Arlen Roth’s slide guitars, and The Righteous Brother’s ‘Unchained Melody’ which becomes a searing instrumental of country guitar emotion, and is a highpoint in an album of flawless musicianship, and unsurprisingly, this piece is dedicated to the late Danny Gatton, who put country electric guitar on the map.
Throughout the 14 tracks, Arlen Roth is in fine form, playing lead and rhythm guitar, six string bass, mandolin, lap steel guitar, and his own distinctive vocals. Like our own Albert Lee, this is country style guitar of the highest calibre, that also fits into many other genres, and should find a place in many record collections.