Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ROW: Bud Isaacs - Bud's Bounce (Bear Family)

Pedal steel guitar pretty much starts with Bud Isaacs. A busy session man in Nashville studios and on the Opry Stage/tours under the employ of icon Red Foley and others, Isaacs tinkered with his instrument and came up with gold in the guise of “Slowly”. The single charted as a certified hit for Foley and also signaled a sea change for lap steel players on a national scale. This invaluable Bear Family collection gathers all of Isaacs’ instrumentals for RCA cut over the span of seven sessions stretching from early 1954 through the fall of 1956. None other than Nashville studio ace Chet Atkins serves as chief foil on electric guitar for five of them and the pairing is an inspired one from the get-go. Isaacs isn’t as overtly eccentric as Speedy West or even Buddy Emmons, but his pedal patterns have parity and precision that instantly places him in a league apart. Liquid timbral shifts and nimble melodic interpolations are regular facets of his clean-shaven attack as on “Hot Mockin’ Bird” where chirruping arpeggios prance with Atkins’ smooth-picking tandem. Most of the dates keep backing to a germane minimum of bass, drums and rhythm guitar so the spotlight shines squarely on Issacs’ ingenuity and agility. Even syrupy ballads like “Indian Love Call” and “Waltz of the Ozarks” are loaded with prime fretwork.

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