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Jason Wilber

Echoes – 2016 (WilberTone)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Jason Wilber

Jason Wilber comes with quite a resume. Aside from the nine albums he's put out on his own, his credits include instrumental contributions to efforts undertaken by John Prine, Hal Ketchum, Greg Brown, Iris Dement, Todd Snider, Greg Trooper, Cary Newcomer, Tom Russell and Over the Rhine. Prine in particular has used him on numerous occasions, affirming Wilbur's status as the guitarist to call upon when some exceptionally tasty licks are called for.

It's notable then that on "Echoes," Wilber shows his knack for choosing tunes that are open to reinterpretation. Each of the 11 songs constitute well chosen covers, some of which might seem a surprise considering Wilber's country/folk pedigree. Yet here he is, solo apart from drums and percussion, covering various standards by Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Echo and the Bunnymen, Leon Russell, Stevie Wonder, Big Star, the Rolling Stones and Joni Mitchell among others.

Somewhat less surprisingly, most of his takes on these tunes are rather muted. His versions of "A Song For You," "As Tears Go By" and Floyd's "Echoes" are given a subdued sheen, expressing a sense of remorse and regret that were less evident in the originals. If anything, it affirms that Wilber possesses a singular style while also asserting the fact that he's not only an assured sideman in the company of others, but an astute interpreter as well.

Given those attributes, it's increasingly clear that Wilber's work stands on its own, even apart from his day job as Prine's primary guitar foil. Indeed "Echoes" is the kind of album that holds up even after repeated plays, its soothing tempos and easy flow well suited to a late night chill out. Its cover conceit notwithstanding, "Echoes" doesn't rely on any previous references for it to stand on its own.