Review: Jerry Reed – Explores Guitar Country (RCA Nashville, 1969/2008)
Long before Jerry Reed became a music star, breaking through with 1970’s “Amos Moses” and 1971’s “When You’re hot, You’re Hot,” and before he became a television and film actor, he was an in-demand A-list Nashville guitar player and struggling solo star. No less than Chet Atkins felt that Reed was a major talent as a picker, encouraging him to add instrumentals and solos to his albums, and bestowing upon him the title “Certified Guitar Player.” This 1969 collection shows off the tension between Reed’s incredible talent as a guitarist and his self-image as a singer. Together with Atkins as producer, Reed creates modern-pop arrangements of standards and traditional folk, country and bluegrass tunes, adding original twists (such as jazz-inflected blues-funk on Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky”) and leaving plenty of room for his finger picking. This is a thoughtful and at times deeply contemplative album, surprisingly experimental and forward-thinking for a Nashville artist who’d yet to fully establish himself with country music fans. Those who know Reed’s later hits will enjoy this earlier work, and those who aren’t fond of Nashville’s ‘70s sounds (and perhaps favor Willie Nelson’s Stardust era interpretations of standards) will be impressed at the soul, jazz, blues, and folk flavors woven into the country base.