Rotation: Jon Rauhouse
Steel Guitar Heart Attack
Ace sideman and session player Jon Rauhouse almost left us a couple of years back. Guys as young as Calexico collaborator Rauhouse aren't supposed to have heart attacks, but all those years of touring with tear-ass bands like the Waco Brothers obviously took a toll on the steel guitar maestro. It's not surprising then that he dedicates Steel Guitar Heart Attack to the doctors who pulled him through.
Along with guitar whiz Tommy Connell, Rauhouse sails effortlessly from Benny Goodman big band treatments to Hawaiian lap steel finger-tanglers with consummate ease and grace, ever mindful of the intelligent, intricate melodies. While 75% of the material is instrumental, Rauhouse makes room for the women vocalists he works with regularly as Sally Timms gives a crisp late-night lounge reading of "I'll Be Seeing You," Kelly Hogan reprises a muscular version of Marty Robbins classic "Big Iron," and Neko Case's loopy Eartha Kitt slur is perfect for the old standard "East of the Sun (West of the Moon)." On super slick instrumental tracks like Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" or the insanely complex and wacky "Holiday For Strings" by cheese-meister David Rose, we literally wait for an announcer to say, "and now, from the ballroom at the top of the Hotel Fountainbleau" or some such aggrandizing supper club nonsense as Rauhouse and Connell trade licks in rapid fire, "oh yeah, take this" rounds. At 18 tracks, Heart Attack calls up precious memories of Speedy West and Lloyd Green as it covers a lot of old ground in an entirely refreshing way. -- William Michael Smith