In Review / Compact Discs

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
August 12-18, 2004

Themes From A Rainy Decade
(Moderne Shellac)

Mention Richard Bennett's name to guitarists who know and stand back while a deluge of superlatives pours from their lips. He has been producing and playing for a long time, most notably with Neil Diamond, Emmy Lou Harris, Steve Earle and now Mark Knopfler. What he hasn't done until now is his own record. With the release of Themes From A Rainy Decade, he corrects that glaring omission with winning style.

As a guitarist obsessed with melody and chord structure, Bennett posits a series of gorgeously sculpted instrumentals that cry out for their own movies. In "Blue At Best," the most black and white song on the collection, it isn't hard to picture a world weary detective of some sort trodding the foggy streets. "Riviera," a bright, Ventures-ish number, could not take place more than a mile from the beach. "Hawkins Street," his tribute to the old RCA Studio B in Nashville, is as close as any guitar player has gotten to evoking the warmth of Floyd Cramer's "Last Date." Each song on the project continues along these lines - referencing familiar genres while still striking these ears as something entirely new. Not a bad trick, but also not an easy one.

- John Sieger