An accomplished and refined player from Toronto, guitarist-composer Galen Weston cuts a wide stylistic swath on his long overdue debut as a leader. From his singing six-string work on the urgently funky "Bensonite", his mellow lyricism on the graceful "The Yellow Guitar," to his soulful expression on the gorgeous "Song for Daphne" and his unapologetic chops showcase on “Tasteless,” Weston wails with rare conviction and facility throughout Plugged In.
Accompanied by veteran Toronto session players: David Woodhead on fretless electric bass; Al Cross on drums along with versatile keyboardist Matt Horner; Richard Underhill on alto sax and Rick Lazar on percussion, the guitarist carves out some fresh new territory on this eclectic six-string manifesto.
Recorded at his beautifully-crafted, state-of-the-art Rose Room Studio in Toronto, Plugged In represents Weston’s return to guitar after following a lengthy period of running an internet business he founded. Now, after four years of dedicated woodshedding, he finds himself on the other side of the glass, cast in the performer’s spotlight. "I am on a mission to catch up from the years I lost with music," he explains.
His auspicious debut kicks off with "Funk Opus #2," a lyrical number that shows the influence of Texas guitar hero Eric Johnson. "I first heard Eric on the radio when I was working nights stocking shelves at a retail store," he recalls," and it definitely altered my life. "His affecting ballad "Song For Daphne," named for his youngest daughter, has already gained much attention on Facebook and SoundCloud. This tender number showcases Weston’s warm, inviting tone and expressive playing along with some potent testifying on the alto sax from Underhill.
"The Yellow Guitar(A Guitarra Amarela)"is a smooth offering that features some of Weston’s most seductive lines along the way. "I was going for Mark Knoppler here, I just love his tasteful playing," he says. "My solo was really trying to tap into some Stevie Ray Vaughan influence, particularly the clean playing on tunes like 'Riviera Paradise'".
For a change of pace, Weston delivers an intimate acoustic fingerstyle version of the melodious Keith Jarrett tune "Country" (from his classic 1978 ECM album, My Song). Woodhead contributes a singing fretless electric bass solo on this heartlandish number. Shifting gears radically, Weston and crew kick out Miami Vice style jams on "Galen’s Vice" - a tribute to the ‘80s. Underhill offers his plaintive alto cry throughout this piece while Weston dials up a quintessential ‘80s rock guitar tone on his incendiary solo here.
The soulful "Austin" has Horner doubling on piano and organ while Weston alternates between warm Wes Montgomery-styled octave playing and fluid single note lines on the engaging melody. Underhill really digs into this piece with abandon on his solo, Horner follows with some potent solo statements on both piano and organ and Woodhead contributes another wonderfully melodic bass solo.
The no-holds-barred rock anthem "Tasteless" is Weston’s tip of the hat to guitar god Steve Vai. His clean-tone re-imagining of Jimmy Van Heusen’s "Like Someone in Love" opens with a solo guitar intro that has Weston showcasing some accomplished chordal melody playing. Cross puts up a muscular backbeat behind the jazz standard as the core trio of guitar-bass-drums grooves along in mellow fashion.
"Late and Never" has Weston throwing his sustained, slightly distorted guitar lines around with rockish authority. There’s plenty of deft fingerstyle comping and slashing single note lines over a slamming groove before he takes it out in triumphant fashion with his distortion set on stun.
The collection closes with "Rock Jam," which opens with a dialogue of clean fingerpicked chords and contrapuntal bass lines. Another potent power trio number, it slowly builds in intensity to some aggressive fretboard flights.
"With this debut I feel like I am really on a good path," says Weston, "and I have so much more to do!" Stay tuned.
Bill Milkowski contributes to Down Beat and Jazziz magazines and is the author of “JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius”
01. Funk Opus #2
02. Song for Daphne
04. The Yellow Guitar
05. Rose Garden
07. Galen's Vice (A Tribute to the 80s)
10. Like Someone in Love
11. Late and Never
12. Rock Jam
Galen Weston: guitar
David Woodhead: bass
Al Cross: drums
Simeon Abbott: keyboards (1)
Matt Horner: piano
Richard Underhill: saxophone
Rick Shadrach Lazar: percussion
Lenka Lichtenberg: vocals
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