Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Live in Detroit reviewed by Mark Thompson

Live in Detroit
Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers
White River Records
10 tracks/73:10

Ever since his days as a member of the Nighthawks, Jimmy Thackery has been one of my favorite guitar players. His fluid string work, command of musical dynamics and awesome technical skill mark him as one of the most tasteful guitarist working the blues/rock field these days. While his studio recordings provide plenty of highlights, Thackery has always been most commanding when he is cutting loose onstage at some blues joint in front of appreciative fans.

His latest recording came from a obviously special night last November at Callahan’s Music Hall in Auburn Hills, MI. Backed by his regular band, Russ Wilson –aka Rollo Giganate – on drums and vocals plus Mark Baumgarner – aka Bumpy Rhodes – on bass, Thackery lights up the crowd with one mesmerizing guitar passage after another. There are few musicians that can hold listeners interest for almost 27 minutes on three instrumental tracks but Thackery does it right from the start.

His typical set opener, Albert Collin’s “Don’t Lose Your Cool”, gets an inspired run-through as Jimmy displays his control of his array of effects pedals as he unleashes several mind-boggling passages on his guitar. The following track, “Solid Ice”, starts out at a slow, melancholy pace, then steadily builds to a majestic series of searing runs as Thackery’s guitar cries out in anguish. “Daze in May” is a moody piece with surf guitar influences that eases back on the tension. Wilson takes the lead vocal on “Big Long Buick”, a swinging tribute to cool cars.

Thackery slips back into the surf guitar mode on “Landlocked”. He deftly single note runs and power chords, proving that there is still plenty of life in this aging genre. The next track is another tribute to the auto industry, “Detroit Iron”, featuring more aggressive work from Thackery. Things slow way done on Memphis Slim’s “Love My Baby”. Thackery takes his time on his solo as he steadily builds the tension simply by changing the dynamics of his playing – not by being faster and louder. The shortest cut, “Bomb the Moon” is a Buddy Holly-meets-the Ventures instrumental track complete with a bright guitar tone, jangling rhythm and more superb picking from Thackery.

Jimmy turns in a pithy vocal on his original “Eat It All”, which preaches that we should grab all of the gusto out of life while we still can. The closing cut is a delicate ballad with Wilson turning in a sensitive lead vocal backed by one marvelous guitar fill after another from Thackery, whose guitar takes over with three minutes to go - erupting with a wall of distortion to mark his arrival and then giving one final display of his prodigious talent.

Some years ago, I asked Jimmy what he liked about playing in the trio format. He responded that he felt it created space for the music to breathe. You can hear that throughout this disc. Thackery never seems to rush or overplay- he simply let’s the music flow. He uses his pedals to vary the sonic textures in order to maintain the listener’s attention when his guitar is the constant focal point. All of that and more are on full display on this recording that captures Jimmy Thackery at a high-water mark in his illustrious career. Long-time fans will love this one. The rest of you – prepare to be converted !!!

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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