Mandolin player Johnny Staats leads off the first track of his first album trading licks with Sam Bush, the newgrass progenitor and probably the most respected mandolin player in Nashville. That's quite a statement to begin a recording career with, and Staats, who has been hailed by bluegrass fans and has won numerous amateur competitions, lives up to the professional competition on "Mandolin Meltdown" and the rest of the tracks on Wires & Wood, which is something of a superstar pickers' session even though the artist gets most of the attention. He turns out to be a fair singer and songwriter, too. No doubt part of his appeal lies in his story -- that, unlike most musicians, he has stayed at home working for UPS until Nashville came after him. But he is a remarkable player deserving of the attention he's gotten, and if he keeps his day job after releasing an album this good, it will be country music's loss.
Wires & Wood Review
by William Ruhlmann