Danny Gatton / Robert Gordon

Humbler: Live

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This album's title derives from a famous Washington, D.C., music scene in-joke from when aspiring guitar players would play the original bootleg tape for their peers: "You think you're pretty good? Listen to this." Before long, the featured player, Danny Gatton, would be nicknamed "the Humbler" for his fearsome combination of technique and finesse. The nickname came from fellow guitarist Amos Garrett, who was in the audience for this performance with frenetic rockabilly frontman Robert Gordon. In keeping with Gordon's '50s and '60s stance, up-tempo early rock & roll is the game here, with Gatton supplying the finger- popping coloration that the music demands. Even as a sideman, he knew the secret of backing a singer: play only what the song requires. Gatton reaches some inspired lickety-split peaks on "You Got Heart Like a Rock" and "Cruisin'." On other tracks -- like the smoldering R&B territory of "Fire" or the fatalistic weeper "There Stands the Glass" -- he simply drops terse atmospheric fills to bolster the mood. Guitar freaks will also enjoy the bonus soundcheck romp with drummer Shannon Ford through the echo-laden "Fingers on Fire," which starts slowly and builds to a frenzied climax. The liner notes provide a vivid description of the gig (although the date is curiously omitted). This album's more of a diversion to Gatton's back catalog, but stands up as an unpretentious snapshot of guys having fun before an audience who appreciates the goods being delivered. That's enough reason to listen, whether you're a Gatton or Gordon fan.

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