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Eric Johnson and Mike Stern – Eclectic – 8.5/10

– This album brings together two legendary guitar players: Eric Johnson, whose style is a mixture of blues, rock, and jazz, and Mike Stern, who is a famous jazz guitarist. What we get is a unique group of songs that shows signs of straight up blues (“Benny Man’s Blues”), Wes Montgomery style jazz (“Tidal”), bebop (“Dry Ice”) latin jazz (“Remember”), country (“Sometimes”) rock, soul, r+b, smooth jazz, and even funk. And the best part of it is, is that every song on this over an hour long album is extremely welcome. Five songs on the album include vocals, including the very first and very last track on it. The first song of the album, “Roll With It” has a funky/bluesy vocal approach. Two tracks in the middle of the album, “Big Foot” and “Wherever You Go” see female vocals in a foreign language, which give these songs an exotic and mystical quality. “Wishing Well” is a very Pat Metheny like song, even containing the wordless vocals in unison with the guitar during the main melody that is easily recognizable from so many great Metheny songs. The last vocal track on the album is a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House”, which ends the album. Not only do they trade guitar licks, but they also trade vocal duties on the cover. The album really blends the guitarists styles perfectly, going from their comfort zones to unexplored territory effortlessly. “Hullabaloo” sounds like it could have come straight off of one of Eric Johnson’s first two albums. Some moments have Eric Johnson sounding more like Shawn Lane than ever beore, and some moments show Mike Stern really pushing himself as he explores genres other than jazz. He sometimes sounds more like a rock or blues guitarist, especially on “You Never Know” which is a great combination of jazz, rock, and blues. The combination of these two guitarists trading solos makes this my favorite guitar album of the year, and has me wanting to take the time to really break down the licks that are used and use them as my own. The drummer and bassist are no slouches either with great fill ins, which makes it an all around enjoyable album.

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