Jeff Plankenhorn – Soul Slide | Album Review

jeffplankenhorncdJeff Plankenhorn – Soul Slide

Lounge Side Records LSR0012

12 songs – 44 minutes

Lap steel guitarist Jeff Plankenhorn delivers an extremely interesting collection of 11 originals and one cover on this eclectic mix of blues, soul and rock on this album, his first solo release in 13 years. But he’s not stranger to the recording studio as demonstrated by the high level of talent from the Austin music scene, where he’s based, who’ve lended a hand to produce this disc.

An Ohio native who grew up in the church and migrated to Nashville after college, Plankenhorn studied at the feet of three of the true masters of lap and resonator guitar – Uncle Josh Graves, Gene Wooten and Jerry Douglas. He relocated to Austin at the suggestion of Texas legend Ray Wylie Hubbard and quickly made a name for himself playing lap standing up and chording the strings with a Swiss Army knife.

As a backup musician, Jeff has worked with Hubbard, Joe Ely, Bobby Whitlock and a host of other Texas legends. Co-produced by Plankenhorn, Miles Zuniga of the band Fastball and Ross Hogarth, who’s worked with Keb’ Mo’ and Ziggy Marley, Soul Slide features guest appearances by vocalists Ruthie Foster and Malford Milligan and organist Rami Jaff of the Wallflowers and Foo Fighters.

Plankenhorn is backed by bassist Yoggie and drummer Brannen Temple, the surviving members of the late Stephen Bruton’s trio, as well as Dave Scher on keyboards and guitar. Adding to the mix are Peter Adams (keys), Zuniga (guitar, keys, bass and backing vocals), Tim Pearce (guitar) and Josh Stuebe and Clark Hamilton (handclaps) as well as Scrappy Jud Newcomb (guitar), Bruce Hughes (bass/backing vocals) and John Chipman (drums), all of whom worked with Bruton in the roots/rock band The Resentments.

A riff that borders on East Indian mysticism kicks off the opening track, “Lose Your Mind,” about wanting to let everything go to become more spiritual. It quickly evolves into a soulful, full-tilt shuffle that combines the blues with a musical feel you can find only in the Southwest. Milligan shares lead vocals on a traditional take of “You Got Me Hummin’,” the Sam And Dave/Isaac Hayes classic and the only cover in the set, before the mood changes for “Trouble Find Me,” a Southern ballad dealing with the frustration of being a magnet for problems despite trying to avoid them.

Based both on the style of the Rolling Stones’ “Tumblin’ Dice” and a line from poet Charles Bukowski, “Like Flowers” features a duet with Foster. It’s a driving rocker that relates the realization that “people look like flowers at last.” Up next, “Dirty Floor” is a medium-paced shuffle that questions a loved one’s attitude and stresses: “I will be your Superfly/We got somethin’ goin’ on.”

Plankenhorn’s virtuosity on the six-string is on exhibit for “Kansas City Nocturne,” a tasty, but brief instrumental, before the soulful “Born To Win,” which stresses that victory will only come if you put out the effort. “Vagabond Moonlight” follows. It’s a ballad with a country feel about a longtime gypsy returning home. “Mockingbird Blues” — written by Willis Alan Ramsey, best known for The Captain And Tennile’s “Muskrat Love,” but never previously recorded – is a sweet acoustic number. The feel continues with “Headstrong,” a complaint about a friend who always arrives drunk. The Resentments are featured on the country rocker “Live Today” before the soulful ballad “Waking In The Sun” concludes the set.

Many artists who are superstars in their own right in the Austin scene have no need to venture out of the Lone Star State for gigs and recognition because of the success they enjoy at home. Jeff Plankenhorn is one bright light in that galaxy, and Soul Slide serves as a great introduction for him to the outside world. The album touches several forms of music, although the blues current runs strong throughout. If you’re looking for the old blues one-four-five, look elsewhere. But if you’ve got a taste for something different and original, this one’s right for you.

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