Hailing from Vancouver, Chris Russell is a guitarist who made the unlikely, but successful transition from metal music to bluegrass, transferring his excellent riffing techniques to acoustic guitars. His first solo album Excess in Moderation is a collection of his own music with influences from jazz, world and country.
The album opens with “An Ace in the Hall” and a smooth, jazzy beat, and is quickly plunged into a minor chording by acoustic guitars and a banjo. Russell introduces his audience to his acoustic steel guitar, which carries the melody for most of the instrumental song. Skill and dexterity are prominent in this complex and musically dynamic tune.
“Lenore” begins with a beautiful theme, full with sonorous strumming and full chording patterns. The song gains energy in the midsection as Russell displays his ability to shred acoustically, then dies down into a harmonious ending. The title track, a six-minute saga, explores several genres’ styles, all while maintaining a bluesy folk atmosphere thanks to the croning steel guitar.
Continuing in the same groovy countryside vibes “Bill’s Last Bash” is a laid-back tune that gradually builds in vitality as the note-bending solos and riffs become more and more complex and spectacular as the song progresses. Russell’s ability to transfer emotion through his guitar playing becomes even more evident in “Mary Kelly” a wistful, melodic piece that carries thoughts and feelings just as well as a lyrical song might.
“Old 54” employs atypical rhythms and unconventional chords to gently jolt listeners into a world outside their own. Bringing to mind faraway marketplaces and exotic locations, this track highlights Russell’s diverse musical ability and transcendence of style. “Strong Armed” with its buzzing acoustic bass, clicking percussion and relentless guitar, dobro and banjo picking, transmits a hurried and anticipatory aura through the music.
Slowing back down with “The Mirror Rings of Echo” Chris brings back the country-infused facet of his music to the aural stage. Though the song is somewhat repetitive, enough variety is inflected and added to the repeated themes throughout the song so as to prevent any tedious quality from leaking through the notes. The album ends with the short “A Terrible Mand for the Blankets” a thoroughly somber and reflective piece that includes wobbly bass and complementary guitar and dobro for arguably the best song on the entire record.
Chris Russell has accomplished what many would find difficult to achieve: producing a nine-track instrumental album with elegant sound diversity, variety and excitement to keep the listener in a state of pleasant anticipation and enjoyment throughout the entire work.
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