Grant Central Records
GCR 1602

The world of flatpicking guitar is a mighty competitive one these days, with each picker hotter, faster, and flashier than the one before. It can be hard to stand out musically, but Tyler Grant has used his versatility to make a strong impression on his latest release Earth & Wood.

His credentials as an accompanist for the likes of April Verch, Adrienne Young, and Abigail Washburn, his forays into jamgrass with Drew Emmitt, and the incendiary guitar chops honed by numerous contest championships all blend here to create 14 varied and interesting tracks. What lifts the recording even higher are his original songs, some written solo, some collaborations with Benny Galloway, who has written lots of material for Yonder Mountain String Band.

The album’s opening track, “Last Day On The Job,” is an effective variation on the theme that Carl Jones used in “Last Time On The Road,” recorded by the Nashville Bluegrass Band years back. Grant’s point of view is an evocative account of someone leaving his day job behind for the last time. It’s joined by an array of tales of the road (“One Town One Tune” and the lilting waltz “West Texas Wind”), and “Sweet Talking Angel” is a gently loping love song. Yet Grant is also adept at adapting and arranging a good and unexpected cover, as shown in a very nice version of “Believe (Nobody Knows)” by the rock group My Morning Jacket.

The songs are well-supported by a cast comprised of mandolinist Jordan Ramsey, Dusty Rider on banjo, Sally Van Meter contributing resonator guitar, fiddler Patrick Hoeper, and Adrian Engfer on bass. The arrangements are tasty and the musicianship is crisp without overwhelming the songs. Interspersed among the full band tracks are a healthy selection of solo guitar pieces, on which the hot licks fly over standards such as “Huckleberry Hornpipe,” “Cattle In The Cane,” “Dill Pickle Rag,” and an especially restrained yet tasty version of “Shove That Pig’s Foot A Little Further Into The Fire” that could bring this tune into the flatpickers’ canon. Grant has also included a couple of fine original instrumentals of his own—“Pick It” and “Tyler Trail.” Earth & Wood is much much more than just another flatpicking album. Instead it’s an eclectic and varied collection of songs and tunes showing that Tyler Grant is a musical force to be reckoned with. (www.tylergrant.com)HK

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