Don Ross

Robot Monster

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The most remarkable thing about Don Ross, a very original acoustic guitarist, is not that he won the prestigious U.S. National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship twice (in 1988 and 1996), but that he could fashion something of a tribute recording to his late wife with a wacky title like Robot Monster. Naming it after a terrible '50s B-movie was Ross' way of reflecting the craziness of life, and fans of quick, sporty plucking and lightning-fast runs -- and on occasion, likeable melodies -- will instantly develop an affinity for the music. The title track is all quick and snappy lunacy, but "It's Fun Being Lucky" is a little more laid-back, folksy, and hummable. Most of the tracks here are solo efforts, but he uses a groove track and exotic wordless vocals to strong effect on "So Much Time." The disc is mostly balanced between the sort of aggressive, mojo-working-again kind of optimistic intensity and more reflective ballads that show a heart in the healing process. Knowing the story of his wife's passing from cancer makes the lush, languid, steel guitar-enhanced "Goodbye Kelly Goodbye" a true tearjerker.

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