August 2008

Amos Garrett - Get Way Back
Stony Plain SPCD 1330
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Amos Garrett is probably best known for his guitar solo on Maria Muldaur’s 1974 hit "Midnight At the Oasis" (one of Jimmy Page’s favorites) and his work with Paul Butterfield’s Better Days. Over nearly 40 years, Garrett’s brilliant, tasteful playing has enhanced countless recording sessions by artists ranging from Todd Rundgren to Bonnie Raitt. Get Way Back is his seventh disc for the Canadian roots-music label Stony Plain, and this time around he concentrates on the music of blues great Percy Mayfield.

Mayfield was a highly regarded songwriter whose successes for other singers include Ray Charles’ "Hit the Road Jack." Garrett doesn’t cover that tune, but he takes a soulful run at "Lost Mind," which Mose Allison made famous. Garrett gets Mayfield's combination of elegance and grit down perfectly on Get Way Back, but he doesn't copy him as much as capture the spirit of the earlier musician's greatness. Garrett's baritone is a fine instrument for interpreting Mayfield's lyrics, but it is his guitar playing that really commands attention. His solos are concise and fluidly played, with a deceptively laid-back feel that belies their complexity. Guitarists will be woodshedding for months to lift ideas from Garrett’s work.

Get Way Back is exceptionally well recorded, placing Garrett’s voice firmly in the center of the soundstage and a little forward, with the remaining instruments precisely arranged behind him. Engineers Nik Tjelios and Dave Allcock capture the timbre of each instrument, especially the horns (nicely arranged by Dave Babcock). Get Way Back is the work of a master.