It’s swingin’ like Charlie Christian, but cranked through a half-stack. It’s quoting Coltrane, but blowing through humbuckers. It’s Holdsworthian harmony, but it’s shimmering through spinning Leslies. It’s loaded with tasty Morsels (get it?) of fully rocking Dixie Dregs-type unison themes, but it’s 2008, not 1978, These are just some impressions you may get from the guitar parts on Lifeboat, the long overdue debut from the hardest working man in the epic solo business, Jimmy Herring.
As respected for his stunning versatility as he is adored for his amiable and humble demeanor, Herring has long been in demand by everyone from the Allman Brothers to the Dead to his current band, Widespread Panic. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Southern-bred guitar sharpshooter rarely has time to lead his own projects. Now, with a little help from his friends—including slide phenom Derek Trucks, bass badass Oteil Burbridge, drum genius Jeff Sipe, and sax sensei Greg Osby—Herring finally takes the captain’s chair.
If your ears’ idea of a good time includes thoughtful melodies and searing-hot solos gracefully woven through intriguing chord changes powered by monster backbeats, you may find that Herring has one of the most compelling voices in instrumental guitar. Always gutsy, adventurous, and melodic, never dorky or disingenuous, this under-recognized guitar hero just might have the power to make the F-, P-, and J-words (fusion, prog, and jam, as in “jam band”) good words again. Abstract Logix. —Jude Gold