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Guitar Laboratory by Steve Warriner

Steve Wariner’s guitar skills came sublimely to light on his Grammy-nominated 2009 album, My Tribute to Chet Atkins. Atkins’ legacy looms large for Wariner, who grew up listening to his dad’s collection of Chet Atkins records and was later mentored by the famed guitarist and producer.

On Wariner’s wide-ranging, all-instrumental Guitar Laboratory, Atkins’ influence shows up frequently, whether on the lighthearted retro-romps that evoke the best of Chet’s 1950s and ’60s-era solo work or the overall musical sophistication evident throughout. The dizzying variety of styles could prove challenging for some, particularly those who may not appreciate the bygone era of mood-setting, low-key instrumental music, a predominant influence on the disc.

Wariner does make his strings spark on the sizzling opening track and the rock-informed “Sting Ray” (a duet with son Ryan), yet the album never succumbs to self-indulgence, as taste is given priority over technique. That fact, coupled with the spirit of experimentation contained on Guitar Laboratory, would indeed do Chet proud.

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