Muriel Anderson,
(Heartstrings Attached, 2005)

Muriel Anderson is best known as being one of the finest country and bluegrass guitarists in the United States, if not the world. She started playing the instrument at age 6 and mastered every style she could. After studying with classical virtuoso Christopher Parkening and Nashville legend Chet Atkins, she became the first woman to win the National Finger-Picking Guitar Championships.

"Just one hell of a guitar player" is what the great Les Paul had to say about her, and it just doesn't get much better than that.

Wildcat is perhaps her best album to date. A collection of self-penned songs in a variety of styles -- jazz, bossa nova, country, folk -- it is a beautiful companion of a record.

Bright and breezy, the album opens with the title track, which is a perfect introduction to what follows. Describing an imagined encounter with a wildcat in the Laguna Canyon of Southern California, the song summons some philosophical ideas about where exactly we humans are in the bigger picture. Maybe we are not top of the food chain after all, she posits! Featuring Duane Eddy on electric guitar, the song is one for songwriters and laypeople alike to savour.

"St. Louis Waltz" is a beautiful waltz that shows Muriel in her truest and strongest style -- country. With achingly whispered vocals, she conjures a picture of home and the wonderful feeling of being there, with a perfect backdrop of backing vocals and the kind of musicians only Nashville is home to.

On "Rio de Janeiro," Muriel shakes things up. A bossa beat and some mouth-watering nylon-string guitar-playing by Muriel make this one of the highlights of the album and shows that Muriel really is at home with any style of music.

As well as the songs, there are some lovely instrumental tracks on Wildcat. "Bells for Marcel" is an evocative and poignant elegy for the late Marcel Dadi. In the sleevenotes Muriel writes about Chet Atkins ringing her one morning to enquire if she knew which flight Marcel had taken back to his native France after playing with Chet in Nashville. The flight had crashed in the waters just outside New York, and "Bells for Marcel" is a tribute.

"Velzoe's Garden" is reflective and showcases the delicate beauty of slow harp guitar playing at its finest.

Wildcat is a great album. Guitar players will love it, but so will all people who just love music. It is a snapshot of somebody at the top of her game doing what she loves.

review by
Sean Walsh

21 July 2007

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