Music Reviews and P.R.

Vintage Guitar
by John Heidt

Tony Savarino proves himself in many styles and shows a fine sense of humor on an album guitarists will certainly appreciate.

His “Barrelhaus Gutbucket Chicken Pickin” starts things off, with chromatic licks, killer bends, and percussive guitar sounds that glide over a loping country beat. Phil Baugh’s “Take One” feels like a long lost Hank Garland track, with its jazz-country feel and Savarino working chords. He proves more than capable of playing a blues that isn’t cliché with “Blues for Bb,” a smooth after-hours jam with jazzy soloing and changes.

At first glance, Brian Eno’s “Deep Blue Day” – an atmospheric piece with notes soaring in and out – doesn’t seem to fit. But it works. “Freight Train” is an acoustic tour de force with fingerpicking, flatpicking, and everything else you can think of on acoustic. And how can you not love an instrumental guitar record that finds room for “Holiday for Strings.” The classic melody is a muted-string workout that’ll put a smile on your face.

Savarino also sneaks in a rocking rendition of Motorhead’s “Dancing on Your Grave” that hints at Savarino’s inspirations, pre-Telemasters! 

Guitaring is a collection of great songs, deployed with great execution – and the occasional wink.


No Depression
by Ben Bonin

Solo albums by hotshot electric guitarists can be a mixed bag. Some stand out as works of art that showcase the player as an individual artist; others are merely a platform for shameless pyrotechnic wankery. Fortunately, Guitaresque by Boston-area guitarist Tony Savarino fits squarely in the first category.

Savarino's distinguished resume includes gigs with numerous Beantown headliners, in addition to studio work and teaching. It's therefore not surprising he has chops galore; however, Guitaresque reveals that he also has plenty of taste to accompany all that technique. Moreover, while steeped in the classic guitar sounds of the 1950s and 60s, he is clearly after his own sound and stylistic path.

Guitaresque covers quite a bit of ground, from country to jazz to surf rock, revealing shades of Danny Gatton, Hank Garland, and The Ventures. My favorite track is a cover of "Walk, Don't Run" that echoes Chet Atkins in the intro, and then segues into a killer organ jazz workout. "When in Doubt (Dress in Black)" and "Moonshine" are chicken pickin' barn burners that would do Don Rich and Roy Nichols proud. The two halves of the album are even bridged by post-rock atmospherics via "By Way of Amarillo." Somehow, this stylistic mashup all comes together in a surprisingly coherent manner, a testament to both Tony's versatility and his clarity of musical vision. A thoroughly enjoyable disc indeed, and a great example of what instrumental guitar albums should aspire


Tony Savarino - Guitaring (Naked Ear)
by Leicester Bangson

A supremely talented guitarist, Tony Savarino made his bones playing in every band in Boston. Okay, maybe not every band, but far too many to mention here. His all-encompassing style has been compared to that of the late, great Danny Gatton, but in truth, so varied are the different styles Savarino employs on "Guitaring" it would be unfair to compare him to any one single player.

So, speed, dexterity, variety, tone and great taste, Savarino has got the lot, and the good news; he's happy to share. Wholly instrumental, the lack of words detract in no way from this exceptional collection, and standout tracks come thick and fast. Opener "Barrelhaus Gutbucket Chickin' Pickin'" is a country rocker which is as good as its name suggests. "Take One" is a Grant Green-style jazz number that's over all too quickly, and "Blues For Bb" is wonderfully loungy and thanks to some quixotic Hammond and rolling bass would've sounded magnificent on one of Tom Waits early Island recordings.

Perhaps "Deep Blue Day" best represents Savarino's all-round approach to his music, it noirish, ambient quality sounds quite unlike anything else on the record, yet it quintessentially captures his sound. It's quite brilliant, and the same can be said for the album as a whole.


Something Else! Reviews
by Nick DeRiso

The worry, with any rock-guitar virtuoso’s recording, is that it will quickly devolve into onanistic noodling. But Tony Savarino’s Guitaring adroitly sidesteps the problem with a keen eye for variety, and a welcome sense of unselfishness in the studio. 

The Boston-bred musician is a dabbler, with a finger in everything from rock to funk, from soul to country, from pop to reggae. He’s literally all over the map.

That’s led to a head-scratchingly diverse series of sideman gigs across his home city. He was a longtime bandmate with Dale Bozzio (who fronted 1980s new wavers Missing Persons); sat in with the Darlings, an award-winning local country-rock outfit; and appeared as part of a 1970s-style R&B band called Alto Reform School, named for the juvenile lockup where James Brown first formed His Famous Flames band.

Savarino mixes and matches styles in the same way on Guitaring

You’ll hear him tearing through “Early American” by 1950s guitar innovator Joe Maphis, who came to fame by incorporating these fiddle-breakdown freakouts into his act on a double-necked Mos-Rite Special that he helped design. But Savarino also does a delicate dance through “Freight Train” by folk blues legend Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten, a lefty whose unique style of upside-down playing was so revered that it eventually came to be widely known as “Cotten picking.”

Credit Savarino, too, for assembling a crack band. Each member arrives with his own considerable chops, and that keeps the record from becoming overly obsessed with Savarino’s admittedly outsized skills.

Guitaring features first-call sessions drummer Mike Levesque (David Bowie, Natalie Imbruglia), as well as pianist Tom West (Susan Tedeschi, Peter Wolf). The record is also helped along by bassist Rich Cortese, whose debut album with the seminal late-1980s Beantown post-punk band the Zulus was produced by Bob Mould of Husker Du fame.

Guitaring was mixed and coproduced by Salvantonio Clemente, who along with Savarino and bassist George Cooke are part of the seven-musician, eighteen-singer stadium-rock extravaganza Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra.

Every time Savarino threatens to steal the show, one of these guys nudges his way into the conversation.

That’s perhaps best heard on the opener, this driving country rocker called “Barrel Haus Gutbucket Chicken Pickin” that bears more than a passing resemblance to the roadside jangle of guitar-man Jerry Reed. Yet organist Mike Castellana somehow matches Savarino, stride for myth-making stride.

With that, you know why Savarino’s such an in-demand performer. He is just as good at inhabiting the white-hot spotlight, as he is supporting his fellow musicians from just outside the bright circle of attention.


Tony Savarino - Guitarino                                   
12 tracks

Tony Savarino has already lived a lifetime’s worth of rock ’n’ roll adventures and he never even had to leave town to do it. His list of past and present gigs is longer than my arm and your arm put together. It’s ridiculous, really. But a few years back he decided he wanted to create a solo album trilogy. First came Guitaring, then Guitaresque, and now Guitarino. Here’s the thing: how much do you like the guitar? Just the guitar, not dudes pulling shapes or lighting them on fire or blasting them on ten through amps the size of fridges in orgies of wanton sonic destruction. Just one dude and his nimble fingers. If you said “1000 percent!” then holy fuck are you gonna love this record. There is no doubt in my mind that Savarino is one of the best pickers in town and this head-bopping collection of jazz/ country/ roots rock instrumentals zip and zap with such agility that the whole thing feels like it’s floating on a gently lapping ocean wave. The highlight, for me, is the mammoth “Yngwie Van Caravan,” which mashes a country rave-up with dirge-y prog organ and furiously shredding Yngwie J Malmsteen-esque riffery. It’s like a wordless sitcom, Yngwie Joins Lucero And Fucks Everything Up. Goodtimes. The bare-bones acoustic cover of the Stones’ “As Tears Go By” is also gorgeous. I’d still like a little screaming and carrying on in the mix somewhere, but fans of Savarino and his journeyman guitar are sure to eat it up. (Sleazegrinder)