CD-192 Steve Abshire & Paul Wingo "Detour Ahead"
Four guitarists, two different generations. A tribute by two younger players to the older two inspirations. It just begs the question ...
Without missing a beat, Paul Wingo says, "I'm Barney Kessel and Steve is Herb Ellis."
You can see it: the round-faced Abshire as the jacket-and-tie wearing Ellis. The pony-tailed Wingo as the goateed hipster, Kessel.
And you can hear it: the bluesy, warm-toned Abshire comes straight out of Ellis, with whom Steve studied and who became his friend. The more angular, modern Wingo cites Kessel as a huge early influence: "I liked the way Barney would just go for things," Paul says. "There was a rough edge to his playing because he was going beyond where he could go. His harmonic concepts were mind-bending."
And he talked like he played says Paul, "Non-stop: talk and talk and talk; take a breath and talk some more. He had tremendous energy."
Ellis was the more conservative of the two. Herb would bring just one suitcase on the road -- no matter how long the tour. Barney brought trunks of stuff.
Yet Ellis played with "sheer power," says Steve -- and he remembers precisely the first time he heard Ellis: "May of 1978 at the King of France Tavern in Annapolis . I was 24 years old and playing in the Naval Academy Band. Everything he played was just nailin' me to the wall."
Steve spent 15 years hanging out, studying and playing with Herb whenever he could. Ellis would stay at Steve's house when the older guitarist was playing in town. Abshire asked Ellis to be the godfather to Steve's youngest son.
This is an album of deep personal connections.
But there are differences. Steve is the talker here and Paul is the quiet one. Herb used to call Steve his clone. But Charlie Byrd (the other third of the Great Guitars group he formed with Barney and Herb) forcefully dismissed that notion. Byrd said Steve was his own man.
So is Paul. This album is a tribute in the purest sense: two musicians using their distinctive voices and copious talents to honor their mentors. It's not about imitation. It's inspiration.
Though Steve does travel with just one suitcase.