Album Review: Vince Gill — Guitar Slinger
At this stage of his career, Vince Gill has earned the right to experiment. His 2006 four-disc box set These Days epitomized the fact that Gill wanted to stretch his musical wings and dabble, bringing several different musical genres and styles into his country music arsenal. On Guitar Slinger, Gill continues that diversification and delivers straight-out blues, classic steel-driven country, a little bluegrass influence, gospel themes and modern country, all done well with that gorgeous, high lonesome sound of a voice.
The album opens up with a fun, up-tempo, title track that picks up where 2003’s “Next Big Thing” leaves off. Gill stretches out and shows off his guitar picking chips and delivers a great little throwaway line as tribute to last year’s Nashville floods: “Half my stuff is in the Cumberland River.” “Who Wouldn’t Fall in Love with You” is a tender lyric co-written by Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe and “That’s When Lonely Comes Around” is a terrific modern percussion-driven radio-friendly single. Both of those tracks benefit from that beautiful classic Gill vocal treatment that imparts emotion and a sense of loneliness with every syllable.
There are three truly phenomenal tracks on this album that will certainly go down as some of the best of the year. “Bread And Water” is the story of a homeless man—loosely based on Gill’s brother—who finds a kind place to eat and more importantly, a place to save his soul. The combination of death, forgiveness, salvation and redemption is stuff Gill does so incredibly well and this song delivers big time. (Anyone who argues with this just needs to listen to “Go Rest High on That Mountain” just one time.)
“Old Lucky Diamond Hotel,” a delicious slice of Americana, was inspired by the razing of several classic Route 66 landmarks. It’s wrapped up in great, gritty 70s country themes like losing your virginity to a sweet Spanish stripper, filtered Pall Malls, pool shooting, and raising hell as a teenager. Gill gives the hotel more admiring description in four minutes than do most newspaper stories. At the end of the song, it’s hard not to lament that they’re demolishing a fictional location with such character.
The last song in an outstanding trio of powerhouse tunes is the first song released to radio, “Threaten Me with Heaven.” This sure-fire ICM award-nominee was written by his wife Amy Grant, Dylan O’Brien, Will Owsley and Gill. Tragically, Owsley took his own life shortly thereafter and the power and emotional strength behind this song hints at something bigger at work if you’re so spiritually inclined. For Gill, the delivery of this song is extremely personal and it comes through in sound.
After 17 studio albums, 20 Grammys and 18 CMA Awards, you might think Gill might not have anything left to prove. Guitar Slinger proves otherwise. It’s clearly one of the top releases of this year.
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