Corey Christiansen: Lone Prairie

Much like the soundscapes jazz guitarists Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny have recorded, Lone Prairie has its pastoral charms. But in revealing the breadth of his musical education, or at least a significant measure of it, Corey Christiansen draws from a variety of influences-folk, country, rock, blues, funk, jazz-with as much ingenuity as finesse.

That’s no small feat-not when you consider the ease with which Christiansen navigates the fretboard, whether favoring escalating pentatonic runs, slippery jazz chromaticism or sophisticated harmony. He’s no slouch, too, when it comes to colorfully deploying effects or reveling in twang. In fact, nothing on Lone Prairie proves more engaging than Christiansen’s version of “Sittin’ on Top of the World,” reimagined as a thoroughly hip and witty take on honky-tonk.

Strong, simple folk melodies clearly appeal to the Utah-bred guitarist, and he’s careful not to compromise their fundamental allure with excessive embellishment. What’s more, he composed three complementary tunes for this session and finds enough space for Marty Robbins (“El Paso”) to rub shoulders with Ennio Morricone (“Il Grande Massacro”).

Lingering lyricism isn’t the album’s chief focus, though. A top-flight improviser, Christiansen often cuts loose, primarily in vibrant blues-rock or fusion settings that prominently feature bassist Jeremy Allen, drummer Matt Jorgensen and keyboardists Steve Allee and Zach Lapidus. The result is a series of performances that aren’t merely evocative; they’re dynamic, too.