James Wilsey – El Dorado

August 10, 2008

James Wilsey is one of the most talented American guitarists to emerge in the last 30 years, and El Dorado is his first solo album. In a word, it’s amazing, and if you want to hear a true master of the form at work, then you need this all instrumental album. Wilsey started out playing in the 70’s with San Francisco punk band the Avengers, then moved on in the 80’s to Silvertone, Chris Isaak’s band, where his distinctive guitar style helped establish Isaak’s signature sound. Wilsey then took an extended break from recording and performing in the mid-90’s, waiting until this year to release what is clearly a long overdue set of music. He lists as influences on his Myspace page Duane Eddy, Link Wray, Hank Marvin, James Burton, Billy Strange, Lester Young, and Elmer Bernstein, and you may also be reminded of surf music and Ennio Morricone soundtracks when you listen to the ten tracks included here. The music is by turns mysterious, romantic, intensely cinematic and just plain fun, and it’s often richly evocative of open spaces and long, complicated nights. In addition to the guitar work, Wilsey did the rest of the instrumentation himself, making El Dorado as well rounded and impressive a musical showcase as one could imagine. This is one of my favorite albums of the year, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Standout cuts: “El Dorado,” “The Rattler,” “Diabolic” and “Last Chance.”



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