Fans of the wild and futuristic instrumentals recorded by steel guitarist Speedy West and guitarist Jimmy Bryant in the early '50s have had little cause for complaint in recent years. Though criminally out of print for decades (original copies of their records still command top dollar to this day), their work finally began seeing the light of day again during the mid-'90s and is now well represented on the 1997 Bear Family boxed set, "Flamin' Guitars," as well as on two Razor & Tie collections.
If one hole in the West/Bryant story has persisted, it's been the general unavailability of practically all of Bryant's solo recordings.
The Bear Family box includes two of West's solo albums (sans Bryant) in their entireties, but extended no similar courtesy to Bryant's post-'56 career.
Fortunately, "Frettin' Fingers" goes a very long way toward correcting that oversight. Although the first half of this three-disc collection covers what is by now familiar territory - dizzying West/Bryant showstoppers like "Stratosphere Boogie," Flippin' the Lid" and others - it's the second half of the collection which will probably be of greatest interest to Bryant's fans. With the exception of "Ha-So" and "Tobacco Worm" (both reissued by longtime Bryant fan Deke Dickerson on a 45 in the mid-'90s) all of this material has been out of print for a good three decades - longer in some cases.
Unfortunately - with the very notable exception of the 11 tracks included from 1967's "The Fastest Guitar in the Country," as well as perhaps another half-dozen or so tracks - much of Bryant's solo material during this era consisted of somewhat forgettable MOR instrumentals of the sort which was cranked out in the '60s on a regular basis.
Still, there's much to cheer. "Ha-So" proved that Bryant had been capable of playing rock 'n' roll had he wished to do so. "Joy Ride" shows Bryant taking on the Bakersfield Sound on his own terms.
And Bryant's legendary speed is shown off to full effect on "Come Alive Polka," "12th Street Rag" and several other numbers. Recommended for country guitar buffs; particularly if you haven't gotten around to purchasing either the Bear Family set or the Razor & Tie collections.