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Review: Reese Wynans hosts guitar summit on first solo album

By PABLO GORONDIMarch 5, 2019
This cover image released by J&R Adventures shows "Sweet Release," a solo album by Reese Wynans. (J&R Adventures via AP)
This cover image released by J&R Adventures shows "Sweet Release," a solo album by Reese Wynans. (J&R Adventures via AP)

Reese Wynans & Friends, “Sweet Release” (J&R Adventures)

With a career going back to the 1960s, keyboard player Reese Wynans is probably best known for his time recording and touring with Stevie Ray Vaughan.

So it’s not surprising that “Sweet Release,” Wynans’ first solo album, is heavy on the SRV connections, including appearances by the Double Trouble tandem of drummer Chris Layton and bass player Tommy Shannon on several takes of the Texan guitarist’s tunes, like “Say What!” and “Riviera Paradise.”

In fact, the album is enriched by a long list of distinguished six-string masters, such as Warren Haynes, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Doyle Bramhall II, Josh Smith, Keb’ Mo’ and Jack Pearson. They all seem to make Wynans feel right at home and his piano and organ playing bursts with energy and taste.

Produced by Joe Bonamassa, who’s had Wynans on his own records for years, the album abounds with astonishing performances.

Sam Moore, half of Sam & Dave, sings SRV classic “Crossfire” with a passion like he’s the one ducking bullets, while the title track, a tune from Boz Scaggs’ 1969 legendary Atlantic Records debut, has eight lead vocalists — including Haynes, Bonnie Bramlett, Vince Gill and Mo’ — but veers far from ever sounding like an over-wrought charity song.

Mo’ and Wynans duet on “I’ve Got a Right to Be Blue,” sounding like Robert Johnson contemporaries; Haynes assumes command on Les Dudek’s “Take the Time” like he’s running out of it; and Wynans’ instrumental prowess elevates the funky “Soul Island.”

Still, with so many guests, Wynans knows how to shine within the ensemble, flashing his flair without unnecessary glare. When he is alone, as on the last track, a piano cover of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird,” Wynans’ brilliance is beautifully clear.

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