Jukebox at the Last Chance Saloon

Various Artists

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Jukebox at the Last Chance Saloon Review

by Richie Unterberger

"23 instrumental gems from twangy stringbenders and dueling banjo's [sic] to aching steel guitars" reads the small-print subtitle to this compilation, and that's about as good a summation as you'll get of its loose theme. More broadly, these are country or at least country-inclined instrumentals dating from around the middle of the 20th century, most likely centering around the '50s (little is supplied in the way of original recording/release info). The documentation could be a lot better (as could the sound quality at some points), but judged purely on the musical contents, it's a pretty fun romp through country instrumentals in their numerous guises. There are bluegrass hoedowns, country swing, hillbilly boogies, honky tonk twangers, and even some Cajun waltzing, showcasing both speedy virtuosity and more economic, even laconic picking. Some of the artists are famous or fairly well-known (the Stanley Brothers, the Stoneman Family, Joe Maphis, Hardrock Gunter, Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith, Leon McAuliffe, Link Davis, Buddy Emmons), but more often than not, these are artists who might be quite obscure even to country specialists. Some of it's in-your-face-fast (Maphis' "Fire on the Strings"); some of it bears a resemblance to rockabilly (Eddie Eddings' "Country Guitar," McAuliffe's "Boogie on Strings"), or growling rock & roll (Billy Byrd's "Teenage Blues," Smith's "Boogie Battle"); and some of it's calmer porch-sitting stuff. The variety's the important thing, and this CD has plenty of it.