Recycled Record Review: Steve Morse – High Tension Wires

As I was blindly rifling through a box of CDs and tapes, I was praying that whatever I pulled out didn’t have men in animal print spandex sporting a Jersey Shore chick hairdo (I’m from Jersey, I can say that).  Fortunately, I was spared the misfortune and pulled out Steve Morse’s 1989 recording, High Tension Wires.

This is Steve Morse’s first solo album after performing with the Dixie Dregs for almost 20 years.  I expected this album to be similar to the Dregs, a fusion of rock, jazz, country, and classical, but with more emphasis on Morse’s guitar playing.  Man, was I disappointed the first time I popped it in the CD player.  When a guitarist known for his technical prowess releases an album named High Tension Wires, you anticipate having your face melted off, not being mellowed out.

After the initial let down, I started to develop a great appreciation for what Steve Morse had accomplished.  This album is about Steve Morse the composer and the  arranger, not the mega-guitarist.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of moments  where his guitar playing shines,  but for the most part he uses his guitar skills to enhance his compositions.

The album opens with, “Ghostwinds”, a laid back melodic interweaving of 12-string acoustic guitar, 6-string electric guitar, and violin.  It has a number of classic Morse techniques such as emulating a pedal steel, cascading harmonics, and chromatic runs.

“The Road Home” continues with the 12-string acoustic, but is more upbeat.  At the climax of the tune, the 12-string is banging out power chords while Keyboardist T Lavitz  harmonizes the melody with Morse.

One of the many aspects of Steve Morse’s playing I am in awe of is his ability to play a multitude of genre’s, and this album certainly showcases it.  From the Celtic waltz of “Highland Wedding” where Steve plays bagpipe licks on his guitar, to the scenic country landscape images that come to mind when listening to “Country Colors”,  Morse pulls them off with virtuosic ability.

“Third Power” and “Leprechaun Promenade” are the closest to sounding like the Dixie Dregs.  Actually “Leprechaun Promenade” was released previously on the Dixie Dregs ep Off the Record and features Dreg’s violinist Dr. Allen Sloan.

Morse does manage to fit in one track  to satisfy the shred-heads.  “Tumeni Notes” is  full of rapid fire alternate picked arpeggios supported by the crafty bass work of Jerry Peek and more violin goodness from Dr. Allen Sloan.

The album closes with “Modoc”, a rich solo guitar piece performed on a stereo classical guitar tuned to open Eb.

I would recommend High Tension Wires to anybody who has an appreciation for music.   If you do happen to be a guitarist, you will find enough righteous playing from Steve Morse to satisfy.

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