Rhythm & Views 

Joe Maphis

Never as prolific as Chet Atkins or well known as Roy Clark, the multi-dimensional Joe Maphis mastered all things with strings attached, especially his trademark twin-neck Mosrite guitar. During the golden age of honky-tonk weepers, Maphis brought a new level of musical and visual sparkle to country guitar playing.

Originally released in 1957, Fire on the Strings, which has been pleasingly remastered and expanded for the digital age, includes all 12 cuts from that instrumental masterpiece plus seven breathtaking bonus cuts from the Virginian guitar whiz born Otis W. Maphis in 1921 (he died in 1986).

Featured attractions are his flatpicking fiddle tunes on the electric guitar ("Floggin' the Banjo"), primal rockabilly executed at a feverish pace ("Flying Fingers"), rip-snorting choruses on the banjo and mandolin ("Fire on the Mountain"), a precise sense of melody at random tempos ("Bully of the Town"), and shimmering rock-and-roll licks that would pave the way for the '60s kamikaze surf marauders like Dick Dale ("Fire on the Strings").

Even the perfunctory named "Guitar Rock and Roll" is a reckless rockabilly-style rave-up that would put Link Wray to shame. Maphis' fingers fly by at warp speed firing off spectacular, surging solos that confirm his sophisticated, string-bending greatness.

Nestled effectively among the exquisite bonus material is "Hurricane," a dueling six-string workout between Maphis and then-13-year-old guitar prodigy Larry Collins of the teenage rockabilly duo the Collins Kids. The astounding, lightning-fast notes ripped effortlessly by both phenomenal players have to be heard to believed. The concentration, dexterity and fluidity by both guitarists allowing them to play the notes that fast and that perfectly are a thing of genuine beauty.

Maphis, who was once dubbed the "King of the Strings," substantiates that dubious honor with the dazzling musicianship offered on the amazing Fire on the Strings.

More by Ron Bally


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