Vince Gill

High Lonesome Sound

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Vince Gill takes off on a tour of American music on High Lonesome Sound. The title cut steps back to a time he hasn't visited in a while, drawing on his days as a bluegrass singer and guitarist to create a soaring, harmony-driven sound that applies Appalachian drive to modern country rhythms. Most of the rest of the album's journey treks in new directions. The aggressive guitar riff that opens "One Dance with You" is straight Chicago blues, while the jaunty feel that enlivens "Down to New Orleans" draws on the Windy City's funky rhythms with a deft touch worthy of Little Feat -- with Lowell George, that is. "Tell Me Lover," also bearing the trace print of Little Feat, dances through a swampy groove. The arrangements by Gill and producer Tony Brown give traditional sounds a modern sheen while maintaining a distinct regional flavor. Gill gets much more room to show off his impressive guitar prowess than on his past records. A pair of small complaints are that his lyrics don't match the music (they are steeped in the modern country topical schemes) and he can overly sweeten the blues. Elsewhere, he uses the clich├ęd aspects of Cajun music in paying homage to Louisiana's musical heritage (R&B and New Orleans second-line rhythms aren't here and should be, because he's musically sophisticated enough to pull them off). Therefore, this album works best when he's not straining for authenticity: "Worlds Apart," "Given More Time," and "Pretty Little Adriana" leaven his tried-and-true formula into arrangements that are more progressively atmospheric than his past hits. Gill owns too many strengths to need to transform himself into Lowell George or Bonnie Raitt at this point in his career; he can leave his own mark on any music he chooses to play and -- for the most part -- does so here.

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