Guitarist Van Manakas is a jack of all trades, a man who has played acoustic rhythm on bluegrass albums, strummed with the orchestra of jazz great Gil Evans, and been featured on sessions ranging from R&B to fusion to New Age.Surprisingly, despite such a varied background, this album exploring country guitar styles is so heartfelt, immediate, and masterful that one would swear Manakas only played this stuff. From the spacey Texas textures of "El Dorado" (complete with feaux-Willie nylon-string guitar work) to the Speedy West-Jimmy Bryant tribute "Troubador," Manakas proves himself a resourceful player not afraid to wield his sense of humor.
It doesn't hurt that he has an ace band, most prominently featuring brilliant pedal-steel player Doug Jernigan. He is one of the giants of his instrument, a fearless musician who has taken the steel through country, bebop and beyond over his long career. Manakas' material gives him something more to sink his teeth into than the standard country session fair Jernigan is typically featured on, and his presence alone makes this an essential recording. (Box 150663, Nashville, TN 37215)