Out Standing In Their Field
Eagle Rock, 2009
REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/07/2009
I consider Steve Morse to be the godfather of the modern guitar gods. Sorry, I should say post-’70s, so simmer down you Page and Clapton fans; those guys are in a league of their own. I give huge props to my other modern guitar heroes, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and John Pettruci -- virtuosos all -- but Morse manages something the rest don’t always practice: restraint. Never one to wallow in self-indulgent guitar acrobatics, endless soloing, and other wankery, Steve lays it out straight and clean. Taking time out from his duties with Deep Purple and Dixie Dregs, Out Standing In Their Field is the latest purely instrumental offering from his eponymous band.
Backing Steve up are the amazing tandem of Dave LaRue on bass and Van Romaine on drums. Together these three have incredible interplay and manage to always keep the focus on melody. It’s that commitment to melody that often sets Morse apart from his contemporaries. Under all the amazing technique and virtuoso solos, the core of his songs is always a strong melody, employed with his unrivaled mastery of tone and his unique sonic phrasing. There are great guitar players who can tweak thousands of voices and sounds of a guitar (Steve Vai and Buckethead come immediately to mind), but no one other guitar player I’ve heard is able to do so and manage to keep it from sounding like a science experiment. Whether he’s shredding, plucking, tapping, or backing off to let bassist Dave LaRue take the lead, he keep things fresh and infinitely listenable through eleven amazing tracks.
Morse plucks at numerous influences on this disc, as he always does. Jazz, metal, country, and Bach all pop their heads up. A Southerner to the core, Morse loves to throw in some hillbilly flair. Case in point is the country wailer “John Deere Letter” (yes, Steve loves the puns). Steve squeezes some genuine sounding fiddle and pedal steel sounds out of his six string, while bassist LaRue provides some amazingly nimble finger work the likes of which you’re not likely to head in Nashville. “Name Dropping” feeds off a heavy Deep Purple style groove, punctuated by amazing solo work from both Morse and LaRue. Steve knows it’s not all about shoving a groove in your face. “Here And Now And Then” is a beautiful instrumental ballad that recalls his excellent work with Kansas.
The full scope of this amazing band can truly only be heard live. Fortunately, the album closes with a live version of “Rising Power.” The interplay between guitar and bass is phenomenal and this track amazes me every time I play it. I can’t find a dull moment on this album. Morse keeps it sounding fresh and dynamic, and deftly keeps the songs tight and focused. This is a solid captivating listen from start to finish.