Most people think of the typical bluegrass band as consisting of five instruments: banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and bass. However, many of the best bluegrass groups wouldn’t have been complete without the rich sound of the resophonic guitar. The world of this instrument might be a small one, but thanks to the work of guys like Curt Baker, it’s growing.
On his new project entitled Slidetown Reunion, Baker has created an album that showcases just how much a resophonic guitar (as well as other varieties of steel guitar) can add to a song.
Released on Catawba Records, Baker’s new project was recorded at Catawba Sound Studio in Virginia with assistance from Gizmo Recording Company as well as Dewey Peters. Throughout the 14-track collection of tunes, Baker is joined by over ten musicians including great southwest Virginia talents like Tony Collins and Lee Dunbar. The familiar slide tones of Mike Auldridge, with whom Baker has studied the past few years, are also featured on two songs: Panhandle Rag and Pickaway.
On Slidetown Reunion, Baker demonstrates both his knack for interpreting standards and his writing ability. Not only does he cover traditional numbers like The Johnson Boys and John Henry, plus Bill Monroe’s Road to Columbus, he also includes some new music of his own. Three pieces on the record are Baker compositions: I’ll Go Home, Olivia’s Reel, and a co-write with Greg Honeycutt entitled Front Porch Swing. From nice swing-like pieces to more straight ahead tunes like Sally Goodin’, Baker’s album includes a lot of strong material. The tracks with Auldridge are an especially nice touch, particularly the somewhat obscure ’70s number, Pickaway.
On many current releases, people tend to be straying away from CD booklets, or only including the names of the songs, and not much more. Furthermore, it’s not often that a bluegrass album comes with a disclaimer. However, Baker’s Slidetown Reunion includes information regarding the types of instruments used on individual tracks (even the specific year of several instruments), and even offers: “The brand name Dobro is commonly misused in reference to all resophonic guitars. No Dobro brand guitars were used in the making of this recording!” For those listeners who are unfamiliar with resophonic guitars, this is a nice addition which may help them begin to learn more about the instrument and its various forms.