Forgotten series: Danny Gatton – 88 Elmira St. (1991)

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The late, and unjustly obscure Washington D.C. guitar guru Danny Gatton — known, quite simply, as The Humbler — finally got his splashy major-label debut with this one, and it sparkles in the white-hot spotlight.

Good thing, too. By 1994, one of music’s most versatile, talented and electric performers had committed suicide. In the interim, Gatton’s recordings more often included guest vocalists, with uneven results. “88 Elmira St.” is all-instrumental, and better for it.

You’ll hear blues, deep-fried swing, rockabilly (expected, perhaps, since Gatton had spent time with both Roger Miller and Robert Gordon), Les Paul, Dick Dale, the theme from “The Simpsons,” Chet Atkins, Jimi Hendrix, bluegrass, some kind of garage-band noise that sounded like spot-welding, Wes Montgomery, the works. (This was a guy, after all, who once was in a band called Redneck Jazz Explosion.) Gatton was so good he could put down his Telecaster in the middle of a song then switch over for a blazing turn on the banjo. So, he does.

Highlights include “Elmira Street Boogie,” nominated for a 1990 Grammy as Best Rock Instrumental Performance; the fun roadhouse shuffle “Funky Mama”; and a deeply emotional version of Brian Wilson’s mythic rumination on lonliness “In My Room.”

In that quiet moment, his ferocious talent is laid bare. Gatton absorbed every significant element of the guitar, and made them his own.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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