Thursday, April 25, 2013

Joe Maphis - Fire on the Strings

Joe Maphis is a master - and innovator - of electric bluegrass guitar, and a man who has influenced the sounds of bluegrass, country, surf and rock'n'roll, although he is far from a household name.

Growing up as a Carter Family fan, he taught himself guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin and fiddle and one day while playing rhythm behind a fiddler at a square dance he thought to himself, as the liner notes here say, "why can't a guitar player flatpick fiddle tunes?" He learned how and never looked back!

He had a custom built double neck Mosrite guitar with the top neck shorter so it could be tuned an octave above the standard neck, allowing him access to even more notes! His dazzling speed never lacked finesse or sacrificed tone as he spewed "flurries of twang" (to once again quote the liner notes). I'm tempted to say that he is the Alvin Lee of bluegrass, but I think he is even faster and more precise than Lee!

This record is entirely bluegrass instrumentals and all are excellent, with Maphis blazing on guitar, mandolin and banjo, while backed by a crack team, including fine fiddling, steel guitar and rhythm section. Besides the original album, this CD includes an EP that Maphis recorded with Larry Collins, of the Collins Kids, whom Joe mentored and who was quite the student!

All in all, a stunning example of some of the finest bluegrass playing that you're likely to even here! Prepare to have your mind blown!