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Joe Maphis

Fire On The Strings – 2001 (Columbia/Legacy)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Joe Maphis

Instrumental fans rejoice. This superior 19-song compilation encompasses all of Maphis' 1956 "Fire On The Strings" LP and is fattened up with 7 bonus tracks culled from other late '50's albums.

Best remembered for his hot-pickin' on his trademark doublenecked Mosrite electric guitar, the Virginia-born Maphis was equally adept on banjo, mandolin, and the fiddle. When he wasn't cutting recording with his wife/ partner Rose Lee, he served as one of the hottest studio pickers on the West Coast, cutting scorching tracks with Ricky Nelson among others. Regularly featured on the Town Hall Party television show, Maphis backed dozens of touring acts and mentored the guitar progress of young rockabilly Larry Collins of the Collins Kids. This set showcases Maphis' rapid-note technique on a pleasing assortment of hot country guitar workouts ("Flying Fingers," "Fire on the Strings"), twin fiddle-drenched barn-dance themes ("Tennessee Two Step," "Town Hall Shuffle"), and fiery Earl Scruggs-type overdrive banjo pieces ("Twin Banjo Special," "Randy Lynn Rag").

Far better are Maphis' late '50's recordings with Collins and pal Johnny Bond wherein he proves there was nothing either Duane Eddy ("Early American," "Short Recess") or Dick Dale could accomplish ("The Rockin' Gypsy") that he could not best. This highly recommended display of musical showmanship is sure to keep modern day pickers up nights.