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July/August 2004

Rick Peckham Trio
Left End
Perfected

Forget for a moment the dazzling chops crowded into this hour-long guitar trio date; it's actually Rick Peckham's pigpen guitar tone that warrants giving Left End repeated spins. The gritty sound of Peckham's Telecaster plays perfect complement to the snot-nosed and curt musical non sequiturs the guitarist spits out across the album's 13 songs, yet it doesn't obscure the more flighty, jazz-informed excursions he takes on the fretboard.

Now, Peckham may want his guitar to sound like Neil Young's, and those "screw you" licks mentioned above are straight outta the Neil Young real book, but when Peckham takes a long solo his music moves more in the direction of Larry Coryell. So, throughout Left End he floats between classic-rock and jazz-rock fusion stylings, with a flexible drummer, Jim Black, and a bassist, Tony Scherr, who steers Peckham's erratic course confidently. But the three hardly interact as a band should. Black, perhaps attempting to match Peckham's outgoing musical personality, relies too much on bombast. Scherr is like a caged gorilla; his big tone rarely gets a melodic moment all to itself-a pity since the music becomes ever more engaging the few times he does take charge for a few bars. Things change during the album's last four tracks, when the subdued "Hawthorn" initiates a couple of cuts where the band members can stretch out and speak to each other. By then the album's almost over, however, and we're left only to hope that the next one will pick up where this left off.

Killin' chops and wonderfully stankin' tone await you at the Left End, but it's doubtful anyone besides the hopelessly guitar-obsessed will want to journey there often.

Originally published in July/August 2004
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