Various Artists

Travis County Pickin'

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This compilation (whose title comes from a combination of Travis pickin' and the fact that Austin, Texas -- where this was cut -- is in Travis County) features 15 tracks of original compositions by Austin guitarists, performed by the composers. The songs follow the country-jazz traditions laid down by artists like Speedy West, Jimmy Bryant, Merle Travis, Leon Rhodes, Chet Atkins and Ernest Tubb's band, the Texas Troubadours. Produced by session picker Jim Stringer (who appears in some sort of guitar capacity on eight of the tracks) in his home studio, the project carries with it a down-home feel, with far more emphasis on the performances than on dazzling us with production hype, but sounds great nonetheless. Dave Biller -- the initial inspiration for the project -- kicks things off with a blisteringly fast "Austin-tatious," with top-notch turns from Rick "Casper" Rawls ("White Corn" and "Buckaroo 2002"), Brian Hofeldt ("The Creeper" and "Ellen"), Joel Hamilton's tribute to Danny Gatton ("Danny's Boogie") and Merle Travis acolyte Sean Mencher ("House of Cards" and "Your New Flame [Is Burning Me]") following close behind, making this one delightful album to listen for all the different styles involved. Great rhythm section support from Lisa Pankratz, Karen Biller, Terry Kirkendall and Donald Lindley on drums, Kevin Smith and Sharon Ward on string bass, and Jimmy Pettit on electric gives each of the soloists plenty of room to fly. With this much twang and jazz dynamite from the city's best picking aboard, this is one great example of what Austin's thriving music scene is all about.

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