Billy McLaughlin

Out of Hand

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In the liner notes to his second CD, the virtuoso boldly asserts that "this is what acoustic guitar will sound like in the next millennium." Listening to the creative funk and blues environments -- both machine and organically based -- he creates on most of these tracks, it's clear that the coming thousand years will be full of vigor and adventure. The opening title track begins with a dramatic synth orchestra overture that carries on as an undercurrent for the fanciful strumming main melody and thick, shuffle beat by drummer Kirk Johnson (known for his stints with the Artist). From there, McLaughlin experiments effectively with his surroundings while keeping the spry fingerstyling the focus of each tune. By using a subtle synth-created pipes harmony, he turns the meditative "Candleman" into a spiritual Celtic journey. "Midwatch" is like a Shahin & Sepehr tune with its colorful mix of zesty flamenco stylings and thick retro-soul-flavored rumbling bass and percussion, complemented by Jeff Victor's soaring B-3 lines. McLaughlin, however, saves his most creative muses for a wacky blues/folk/funk take on the Eagles' "Best of My Love"; McLaughlin's strings do a cat and mouse dance with his brother Michael's muted trumpet above a stew of live drums and drum machines before Billy steps out and noodles on the electric guitar while spacy synth sounds vie for attention in the background. The only drawback are the simple, slow solo ballads, which are nice but come across as a letdown next to the spirit of the other offerings.

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