City Hall Records
By James Calemine
Jimmy Herring is a seasoned professional. Currently serving as lead guitarist for the mighty Widespread Panic, Herring has worked with Col. Bruce Hampton, The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead, Derek Trucks, Phil Lesh & Friends, Jazz Is Dead and The Other Ones in his 30 years as a professional musician.
Lifeboat counts as Herring's first solo CD. Herring recruited some of his oldest musician friends such as The Allman's Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Sipe, Matt Slocum, Tyler Greenwell, Derek Trucks, Ike Stubblefield, Bobby Lee Rodgers and Kofi Burbridge to play on these 10 inimitable songs. Herring recently spoke about his musical brethren: "Jeff and Oteil and me, we've always done crazy stuff together--live, without a net kind of stuff. But this time I really wanted to do an album about the songs--even though it's jazz--oriented and all instrumental, it's still about the songs. The melodies are the focus of the album, not people playing fast all the time."
This instrumental CD contains some of the most complex and invigorating jazz-rock recorded in the last decade. Herring, a master improvisationalist, made a career of adapting other guitarist's styles (Dickey Betts-Jerry Garcia), and Lifeboat provides him an opportunity to follow his own indelible style and tone.
The opening track, "Scapegoat Blues", emits a feverish energy like some white light shot of speed as if the tune belonged on Miles Davis' Live At Fillmore West. Herring's fingers move faster than most people's minds. "Only When It's Light" also proves infectious in its high-powered wake-up call tempo. Derek Trucks lends his six-string magic on "New Moon". The combination of Herring and Trucks' guitar styles weave an electric tapestry of sound.
Atlanta organist Ike Stubblefield sits in on "Lifeboat Serenade" with Trucks, Herring, Oteil Burbridge, Slocum and Greenwell as they create a potent musical brew for this centerpiece song. "One Strut" evokes a deep groove the JBs and Funkadelic would admire in the song's gritty funk. Herring's interpretation of the Disney tune, "Jungle Book Overture" allows the depth of his versatility to shine through.
Herring and friends render a memorable version of Wayne Shorter's "Lost". Greg Osby's saxophone-playing provides these songs with lush instrumentation, and "Lost" remains a prime example. "Transients" contains formidable progressions few guitarists can replicate. "Grey Day" begins with Osby's Coltrane-ish intro as Herring's subtle licks travel into pure jazz territory. The final track, "Splash"--a Kofi Burbridge song--could be utilized as some timeless soundtrack to any film, TV or Sunday afternoon musical landscape.
Lifeboat is further testimony to Herring's incandescent talent for songwriting, guitar virtuosity and his ability to serve as a catalyst for other accomplished musicians to streamline a coherent sound. Jimmy Herring ranks as one of the most gifted guitar players walking the planet...and music continues to be his everlasting lifeboat.