Among the advantages that come from being a much-in-demand session player is the fact that it's not only a steady gig, but it gives the opportunity to call in favors when the time is apt to venture out on one's own. Jeff Plankenhorn learned that lesson all too well, and when he called upon famous friends like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Patty Griffin and producer/guitarist Jud Newcomb, he added the necessary star power that can hopefully bring him the attention he so well deserves. Indeed, as a member of the all star ensemble The Resentments, he had any number of notables he could have recruited, but instead, he wisely chose to record a record that put him and his own talents on center stage.
Consequently, "Sleeping Dogs" - its name is an apparent reference to the secondary role Plankenhorn has played all these years - is not simply a parade of guests whose only mission is to usurp the proceedings. Plankenhorn takes the spotlight throughout, sometimes threatening to become a one man band by virtue of the fact that he not only plays guitar - his instrument of choice - but also doubles up on bass, keyboards, pedal steel and, in the case of opening track "Sleeping Dogs," glockenspiel as well, allowing his full range of talents to take the attention it deserves. The material surveys a wide range of emotion, from the title tracks' irrepressible refrain to easy sweep of "Love is Love," the sublime song that follows. Other songs bask in grit and defiance ("Tooth and Nail"), triumph and tenacity ("Never Again"), and a celebration of success via an homage to the road and the safe haven where it leads. ("Homecoming").
Plankenhorn likely won't abandon his day job, and there's no reason why he should. However as a singer and a songwriter, he's made his case clear. "Sleeping Dogs" gives him the bite he deserves.
Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer based in Maryville, Tenn. He also expounds on music on his web site, Beyond the Music.