Link Wray

Link Wray

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Link Wray was one of rock & roll's first bone fide guitar heroes, and his speaker-shredding buzzy chords were as distinctive a sound as anyone conjured up in rock's early years. So Link's old fans were thrown for a loop when, in 1971, the man made a comeback after several years along the margins with a self-titled album that set aside his big slabs of fretboard fuzz in favor of a loosely tight fusion of country, blues, and roughshod folk-rock. Recorded in a homemade three-track studio fashioned in an abandoned chicken coop on Wray's Maryland farm, Link Wray lacks the muscle of the man's legendary instrumental sides, with acoustic guitar, piano, and mandolin anchoring these sides as often as Link's electric, and there's a down-home mood here that lacks the switchblade intensity of Wray's most famous music. But the rough passion of "Rumble" and "Rawhide" certainly carries through here, albeit in a different form; the plaintive howl of Wray's vocals isn't always pretty, but it certainly communicates (Wray lost a lung to TB in 1953), the best songs speak eloquently of the hard facts of Wray's early life as a poor Shawnee child in the Deep South, and there's a humble back-porch stomp in this music that's heartfelt and immediate. (And Wray does serve up some primal hoodoo guitar on the closing cut, "Tail Dragger.") Link Wray didn't go over big with the man's old fans and failed to win him many new ones, but it's an honest and passionate piece of music that's a fascinating detour from the music that has largely defined his career, and has aged better than the vast majority of the country-rock product of the early '70s. Link Wray was later reissued as part of the collections Guitar Preacher: The Polydor Years and Wray's Three Track Shack.

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