Fortunately, the give and take on Arlen Roth's Slide Guitar Summit is the real deal, a deal sure to be ratified by any true slide guitar fan. But then, that shouldn't come as a surprise, given Roth's extensive resume working for some of the biggest names in music.
Which is to say, this album surprised me. A lot. Arlen Roth has created a real sense of camraderie, a feeling that these players gelled, and it shows in the finished product. From the very first track, the music grabs you by the collar and says, "Listen up!" It helps that Roth has been around forever and played with just about everybody from Dylan to Seeger, Simon and Garfunkle, and the late Jack Bruce and Danny Gatton. The list of contemporaries he has worked with would be twice as long as this review.
Slide Guitar Summit starts off with a rocket blast of a song, and never lets up. Sure, there are some slower melodies to offset the real burners, but this record cooks. The fun is in the give and take between Roth and his cohorts. The album as a whole is based solidly in the blues, but there are touches of jazz, rockabilly, and country as well.
Loaded with fourteen tracks featuring guests as diverse as Lee Roy Parnell, Sonny Landreth, Cindy Cashdollar, and the late Johnny Winter, most of the players appear on two songs each. Roth plays lead and supporting roles throughout, and provides vocals on two numbers, "Rocket 88" with Johnny Winter, and "Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia," with Greg Martin of Kentucky Headhunters fame. Jimmy Vivino makes his presence felt with two blues tunes, "Poor Boy Blues," and "And When I Die (One Child Born.)"
But it is the Nashville contingent that really makes the record work. While Cindy Cashdollar turns in a sultry pedal steel take on the Aker Bilk classic "Stranger on the Shore," it is Lee Roy Parnell and Jack Pearson who create the album's best and brightest moments.
Parnell turns in a solid version of the Elmore James gem, "Dust my Broom." His slide playing is spot on, and solidly in the blues tradition, while his vocals add a rural southern inflection to a well known chestnut. Parnell's second contribution is the Little Feat signature song, "Dixie Chicken," which he clearly has a ball playing.
But the best track, well, that one is a real corker. Jack Pearson opens up the album with his only selection, "Do What's Right." A scorcher of a song, the album is the perfect driving anthem, lay down the hammer and watch the miles roll away. Yeah, that first one, that is the one that gets me. It's a jammed up Rockabilly boogie, with a lot of torque. If you say you can keep the speedometer under ninety while cranking this one I'll swear you're a liar. Yeah, that one...that one's gonna get me a court date one of these days...