In an era when newly emerging flatpicking giants like Molly Tuttle and Billy Strings are growing more popular by the day, and when flatpicking legends like David Grier have found new inspiration, it can prove easy to overlook other guitarists taking flatpicking to new realms these days.
Holding the lead guitar seat in Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder (formerly occupied by Cody Kilby and Bryan Sutton), Jake Workman has emerged as a superstar guitarist not to be missed. Workman assiduously studies his instrument, expanding his range by transcribing everything from Bach to gypsy jazz to flatpicking guitar. And when he fulfills the role that Frank Zappa called “stunt guitar” with Skaggs and company on-stage, there’s no doubt Jake Workman is one great flatpicking guitarist.
So it’s no surprise his first solo CD Landmark is an all-instrumental work showing off not only Workman’s shred-worthy technical chops, but also his compelling sense of musicality. A stellar cast including Sierra Hull, Stuart Duncan, and bossman Ricky Skaggs flesh out Workman’s melodic vision, creating a lush CD that sounds more like a full-time band than session players backing a superstar flatpicker’s solo effort.
Landmark rolls out ten originals, plus covers such as his brilliant take on a flatpicking contest standard, “Black And White Rag.” Hull shines brilliantly throughout, often pairing her powerfully lyrical mandolin in harmony with Workman. His Irish-inspired “Charleston To Dublin” shows the guitarist’s fleet-fingered ability to change musical direction at will. And “Star City” lingers in the mind long after the CD is over. Closing out his debut effort, Workman unleashes his fiercest playing on the project, a blazing version of “Pike County Breakdown” driven like nails through marine plywood by banjo player Russ Carson. Hull engages a solo filled with fire, fury, and fun. And it’s not until the third go-round that Workman takes his own searing solo, a lesson in pacing and showmanship I’m sure he learned from his mentor.
Landmark marks a great first step away from Kentucky Thunder and into his own spotlight for Jake Workman. Blessed with great talent and an even greater work ethic, he’s already a blazing star in the flatpicking firmament. (www.jakeworkman.com)DJM