It is hard to believe that 50 years have passed since the world lost bluesgrass/country musician Clarence White. Perhaps best known for his tenure in The Byrds where, along with Roger McGuinn, formed a potent dual guitar partnership and reinvigorated a band who were on the verge of imploding. Yet, as The Lost Masters (1963-1973) proves, there was much more to the man and this collection showcases a virtuoso whose talents are still missed, over five decades later.
Split into acoustic and electric sections, this set begins with ‘No Title Yet Blues’, a rehearsal with Eric Weissberg that finds Clarence dazzling us with his dexterity. His skills on the fretboard are enough to make any novice throw down their instrument in exasperation. Maybe it’s because of the genre in which he operated or his humble nature, but Clarence White is often overlooked when people talk of great guitarists, and this compilation only heightens that anomaly. The frenetic finger work displayed on ‘Fire On The Mountain’ is pretty much the template for what Eddie Van Halen achieved on ‘Spanish Fly’ (from 79’s Van Halen II) yet, for some reason Mr White is rarely credited as a propagator of guitar greats, yet the evidence is right here.
Like all clued-up musicians, Clarence White knew that sometimes it’s not what you play, but what you don’t; musical magic often exists in the spaces that performers create, into which the listener can confer their own meaning, and ‘New Soldier’s Joy’ offers lots of scope for interpretation. Every note counts, and Clarence makes each shine like stars in a crystalline sky, playing slower tracks requires a different skill set, and he has no trouble bringing them to life. However, it’s the more upbeat numbers where he really radiates and there’s no denying the sheer life affirming effervescence of cuts such as ‘Alabama Jubilee’.
‘Ode To Billie Joe’ kicks off the first of six electric tracks, and Clarence makes the guitar sound like a completely different instrument, and not just because it’s played through an amplifier. His playing seems bolder here, more muscular and a delivered with a confidence that gives ‘Buckaroo’ a real kick. Along with frequent collaborator Gene Parsons, Clarence leads a merry jig ‘Around The Barn’, and while many of these songs are rooted in bluesgrass and country, they have a crossover appeal that’ll strike a chord with any guitar aficionado. They studio chat that heralds closer ‘I’m On My Way Home Again’ has a ghostly feel, and one that makes the track all the more potent.
Highly innovative with both the acoustic and electric guitar, the ripples of Clarence White’s invention are still being felt today in everything from country to rock music. Cruelly taken from this world too early, The Lost Masters pays a fine tribute, and offers a tantalising glimpse at what might have been.
- No Title Yet Blues
- Fire On The Mountain
- (Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I
- New Soldiers Joy
- Yesterday’s Train
- Sally Goodin Meets The Byrds
- Casper Creek (aka Banjo Dog)
- Alabama Jubilee
- Ode To Billy Joe
- Nashville West
- Byrd Jam (aka White’s Lightning)
- Around The Barn
- I’m On My Way Home Again