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Jim Campilongo and the Ten Gallon Cats

Loose – 1997 (Blue Hen)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Jim Campilongo and the Ten Gallon Cats

The first point of comparison that springs to mind when the first track, "Bustin' Up," comes on the speakers is the classic instrumental records that pedal steel player Speedy West and guitarist Jimmy Bryant recorded for Capitol in the '50's.

Like Bryant, San Francisco-based guitarist Campilongo successfully blends jazz and country influences and plays them with a tremendous technique and fluidity. Campilongo even has his own Speedy West in pedal steel player Joe Goldmark, who solos nearly as frequently as Campilongo. Lest the impression be given that "Loose" is some kind of tribute to the West/Bryant records, only three tracks - "Bustin' Up," "Fiesta," and "Pluto" - are really evocative of Capitol's studio wizards. Campilongo and Goldmark less frequently tackle the kind of complex, warp-speed harmony work that West and Bryant were known for. While they were influenced by the be-bop jazz of the day, Campilongo and Goldmark employ more dissonance at times than one would have heard 45 years ago, though the cover of "Mr. Sandman" wouldn't sound out of place on a Les Paul or Chet Atkins record of the '50's.

Campilongo has certainly done his homework, all told. "Loose" richly deserves a place up there with the work of the Hellecasters in the pantheon of hot country guitar records of the '90's. (The album is available from Blue Hen, POB 420586, San Francisco, CA 94142 or mc@bluehenrecords.com)