Philibuster, the debut solo album from resonator guitar master Phil Leadbetter, serves as an excellent vehicle to show the skill that he has developed over his long career. Leadbetter leads a crew of some of bluegrass' most renowned musicians, including two members from J.D Crowe and the New South, the award-winning group that Leadbetter has had a long-standing affiliation with. He doesn't waste the talent of his supporting musicians -- his guitar shines without burying the other players in showboating. His highly proficient playing seems effortless, but this album is not only a record of lightening-fast picking. Equally enjoyable are the tracks where his notes hang in much emptier spaces, creating a soulful mood. Several tracks are gems, including a cover of "Happy Together" (the song made famous by the Turtles) which is crackling with pure joy and works remarkably well. "House of the Rising Sun" shows off more emotive playing, and "Runaround" shows that Leadbetter can hold his own when the pace gets frenetic. Leadbetter's cover of the Beatles "Yesterday" works less well, perhaps because it doesn't veer too far from the original. The all-instrumental format of this album may hinder its commercial success, but overall the songs on Philibuster hang together and provide a very listenable first effort.
by Stacia Proefrock