Rhythm & Views

Jon Rauhouse

While lugging an amplifier during a tour backing Neko Case, Jon Rauhouse was struck with the chest pains that would eventually lead him to dedicate this, his fourth solo release, to his cardiac teams and physicians. An offbeat gesture, it's unquestionably, um, heartfelt. His gratitude is shared by the many artists from coast to coast for whom his peerlessly sensitive pedal-steel playing has provided essential color and emphasis to their songs. Besides Case, he regularly contributes to Calexico, Giant Sand and the entire Bloodshot Records stable.

As on his previous solo outings, with Steel Guitar Heart Attack, Rauhouse reminds us of the staying power of favorite TV themes ("Mannix") and novelty hits ("Big Iron"), the swooning charm of lounge music played without irony, and the backbone of Big Band-era dance music--solid rhythm guitar playing. Whatever happened to that, anyway? Aspiring guitar players can also go to school on the super-clean and idea-packed side-picking of Tommy Connell.

There's lots more singing here than on Rauhouse's previous releases. Case returns his favors, as do Joey Burns and John Convertino as part of a swing-era, male chorus on "Idaho." Northwest punker Rachel Flotard turns in a stunning treatment of the classic "Harbor Lights." Rauhouse sings a lot more and especially shines on his original "Drinkin' and Smokin'," surprising subject matter under the circumstances.

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