Friday, April 29, 2011

Steve Wariner: "No More Mr. Nice Guy" (1996) CD Review

Album of mostly instrumental tracks features many guest appearances by some incredible musicians like Bela Bleck and Leo Kotke.

Steve Wariner is known mostly for country music. He's been writing, performing and recording country albums since the 1970s.

No More Mr. Nice Guy is a bit of a departure for him. This album of mostly instrumental tracks features a wide range of styles, though all dominated by some great guitar playing. Most of these tracks have guest players, a who's who of excellent musicians.

"No More Mr. Nice Guy"
The album opens with the title track, "No More Mr. Nice Guy." This is an instrumental tune, except that right at the beginning there is the line, "No more Mr. Nice Guy, huh?" The song has a strange, cheesy intro, but it soon kicks in with some good bar-type country rock music.

Oddly, twice more in the song, it breaks and goes back to that cheesy bit. Why? To make the listener appreciate the rest of the song more? That's unnecessary, as the main body of the song is really good, and features dueling guitars. Vince Gill plays on this track.

"Big Hero, Little Hero"

"Big Hero, Little Hero" is an instrumental track with two distinct sections. One has a mellow folk, new-age feel; the other has almost a jazz sense to the guitar.

Chet Atkins performs on this track. As a side note, last year, Steve Wariner released My Tribute To Chet Atkins.

"Prelude/Practice Your Scales Somewhere Else"

The "Prelude" section of "Prelude/Practice Your Scales Somewhere Else" is a seriously pretty intro on guitar. It has a timeless quality. Then the drums kick in, and this is a playful, wistful song that brings to mind an outdoor fair. This song goes through several phases, with some jazzy tones to it. This track is great fun.

There is also some really nice work on fiddle by Mark O'Connor, and great work on guitar. Sam Bush also makes a guest appearance on this track.

"The Theme"

"The Theme" definitely has cheesy pop elements, but it's also undeniably catchy. It's one of those harmless fun songs. Larry Carlton and Randy Goodrum make guest appearances on this track.

"Forever Loving You"
"Forever Loving You" is a mellow instrumental track. The keyboards make it sound like something from a soundtrack to a 1980s movie - one of those sad moments when a character is looking back on a relationship, remembering the good times (and so the film replays certain moments that the viewer saw only five or ten minutes before).

"Next March"

"Next March" is an instrumental song that begins with a New Orleans-flavored drum beat, and then a short guitar section reminiscent of Trey Anastasio's work. (Those parts are repeated twice more in the song.) This song really benefits from the presence of Bela Fleck on banjo.

"If You Can't Say Something Good"
"If You Can't Say Something Good" starts with some laughter. This is a blues tune, with great work on guitar. This track is one of two that are not instrumentals. First this song includes some cool scat, then has one line sung, "If you can't say something good." The line is repeated a few times at the end. Mac McAnally performs on this track.

"Hap Towne Breakdowne"

"Hap Towne Breakdowne" is a fun, fast-paced instrumental tune mixing bluegrass and country elements. It also features Mark O'Connor doing some wonderful work on fiddle. This is one of the CD's best songs. Carl Jackson and Jimmy Olander also play on this track.

"For Chester B." is a short little exploratory instrumental track.

"The Brickyard Boogie" is a rock song with a fun bar atmosphere feel, with brief solos and good work on guitar. Bryan White, Derek George, Bryan Austin and Jeffrey Steele all perform on this track.

"Don't Call Me Ray"

"Don't Call Me Ray" is an instrumental track featuring a nice blending of folk and blues elements. Leo Kotke plays on this one.

"Guitar Talk"

The album concludes with "Guitar Talk," the second and final track that is not an instrumental. This is a bluesy rock number about playing guitar. He sings,"When I don't know what to stay/I just stand up here and play/I let my guitar do the talking."

"I let my guitar do the talking" is an interesting refrain for an album which, apart from this song and one other, lets the guitar do all the talking. This is a sort of love song to a guitar. Richie Sambora (known primarily for his work with Bon Jovi) has a great guitar solo in this one. Lee Roy Parnell also performs on this track.

CD Track List
  1. No More Mr. Nice Guy
  2. Big Hero, Little Hero
  3. Prelude/Practice Your Scales Somewhere Else
  4. The Theme
  5. Forever Loving You
  6. Next March
  7. If You Can't Say Something Good
  8. Hap Towne Breakdown
  9. For Chester B.
  10. The Brickyard Boogie
  11. Don't Call Me Ray
  12. Guitar Talk

No More Mr. Nice Guy was released on Arista Records March 12, 1996. Steve Wariner has released many other albums over the years, including Life's Highway (1985), I Should Be With You (1988) and Burnin' The Roadhouse Down (1998). His most release albums are last year's Guitar Christmas, a collection of traditional Christmas songs which was released October 12, 2010, and this year's Guitar Laboratory.

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