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Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant
 Stratosphere Boogie: The Flaming Guitars of Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant, Razor & Tie CD RE2067

 Your ears will be smiling

"...the greatest guitar-steel duo of all time," say the liner notes on this release from Razor & Tie Music. I'm convinced.  Stratosphere Boogie collects sixteen of the over fifty "amazing-futuristic" country-jazz instrumentals recorded by steel guitarist Speedy West and guitarist Jimmy Bryant for Capitol Records in the early '50s. They're presented in a superb package with excellent sound, brilliant liner notes (including many photos and a detailed sessionography) and a reverent attention to detail throughout. Razor & Tie could not have done a better job complementing the dazzling work of these underappreciated guitar geniuses.

This is exhilarating music from amazing musicians. Though the material was recorded between 1951 and 1956, it hasn't worn with age, and in fact manages to sound fresher every time I play it. West and Bryant's sound is rooted in the country-swing style of The Texas Playboys and Roy Acuff's Smokey Mountain Boys, with some Les Paul and a little Spike Jones thrown in for effect. To these roots they added experimental instruments (triple-neck pedal steel, double-neck electric 6 and 12 string, the then-new Fender Telecaster) and innovative playing techniques to produce what the liner notes aptly describe as "some of the most amazing amplified instrumental music ever recorded...Bryant's dazzling country-jazz technique, built around cascades of notes, complex, bebop-influenced lines and clean, precise picking was complemented perfectly by West's flamboyant, boisterous steel guitar." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Today, you can hear their influence on work by artists like the late Danny Gatton, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and perhaps Junior Brown, but it would be unfair to make any direct comparisons. West and Bryant were without a doubt the brightest stars in a genre that has all but vanished. Pick this record up today, enjoy, and be sure to tell Razor & Tie to keep up the good work. --Jason Staczek

production notes & song titles
Speedy West, pedal steel guitar; Jimmy Bryant, lead guitar; Billy Strange, rhythm guitar; Les Taylor, piano; Cliffie Stone, bass; Pee Wee Adams, drums; Al Williams, bass; Billy Liebert, piano; Roy Harte, drums; Jimmie Widener, rhythm guitar; George Bruns, bass.

Reissue compiled by Matt Goldman. Liner notes, session information and sequencing by Rich Kienzle. 1995 compilation (36:28)

Stratosphere Boogie | Blue Bonnet Rag | Cotton Pickin' | Old Joe Clark | Sleepwalkers Lullaby | Arkansas Traveler | The Night Rider | Low Man On A Totem Pole | Speedin' West | Comin' On | Bryant's Bounce | Midnight Ramble | Pickin' Peppers | Shuffleboard Rag | Bustin' Thru | Flippin' The Lid

of related interest
It is rumored that Bear Family records of Germany will soon be issuing a boxed set of CDs featuring the complete Speedy West recordings.

contact info
Razor & Tie Music
PO Box 585
Cooper Station
New York, NY 10276

Copyright © 1996 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.