As folks within bluegrass know, Phil Leadbetter is one of a handful of dobro/slide guitarists making waves on the current scene. The title, then -- Slide Effects -- is a natural. He's joined by an impressive group of pickers and singers including singer Ronnie Bowman, fiddler Stuart Duncan, banjoist Scott Vestal, and many others on an even dozen songs and instrumentals. Leadbetter is a more conservative player than, say, Jerry Douglas, which means he sticks closer to tradition. That doesn't mean, however, that there's anything sedate or old-fashioned about his playing. He cuts loose on snappy fun pieces like "Moonracer" and fills them with quick, bluesy leads; he also has a knack for building evocative moods as on the lovely "Sea of Tranquility." The smartest thing about Slide Effects, though, is that while Leadbetter might be the star, he surrounds himself with great players and allows everyone a chance to shine. Vocals by Marty Raybon, Bowman, Steve Gulley, and Alice Vestal are nicely spaced between the instrumentals. The last vocal by Vestal, on "Fields of God," deserves mention, because it might seem odd -- on a fairly traditional album -- to include a song by Sting. But even here, Vestal and Leadbetter turn in a relaxed version that leans toward the past. A solid effort.
Slide Effects Review
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.