CD Review: Shouse “Alone On The Sun”

Michael Shouse is a Kentucky-based guitarist who has been influenced and inspired by the likes of Vai, Satriani and Belew, among other instrumental rock guitarists. After taking notes from the guitarists who preceded him, Shouse now has the knowledge and ability to teach his predecessors a thing or two about guitar playing (when he isn’t actually busy teaching the next wave of guitarists to play).

Just recently, Michael Shouse went into the studio and recorded his newest mostly- instrumental rock album. The newest release from Shouse is entitled Alone On the Sun. Like most rock guitarists who spend their time creating rock instrumental albums, Michael Shouse creates his music by incorporating, not only rock, but also other genres into the songs, as well. The first track of Alone On the Sun, “Bionic” (along with containing a clever parody of The Six-Million Dollar um…….. Guitarist, as the intro), includes a few hints of heavy metal, as does “Shock And Awe”. And the songs “You Can Fly” and “For Alex” have a jazz-like vibe to them.

In the process of recording the tracks for the album Alone On the Sun, Michael Shouse enlisted a group of eleven musicians to help create the release. Together, Mike, the three drummers, and eight bassists would combine together to create twelve unique trios (containing guitar, bass and drums), one for each track on the album. Having one unique musical outfit for each song ensured that each track would have its own unique sound and personality. This also guaranteed that each song would sound fresh, since no three musicians created more than one song on the album as a group.

While eighty percent of the album is instrumental, there are two tracks that feature vocals. And for those tracks, Gene Booth joins Michael Shouse on vocals. Booth provides the vocals for the power ballad “Don’t Remember Me,” and on the song “Man of Constant Sorrow,” the song most recently recognized from the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

With Shouse having grown up in Kentucky, it seemed only natural to have included just a little bluegrass flavoring to the album; although, with the arrangement of the song “Man of Constant Sorrow,” you’d hardly recognize the song as being a tune that has been recorded and performed by many bluegrass artists over the years. Shouse not only is a very good musician, but this track also proves he has the skills as an arranger, as well.

Shouse recorded the vast majority of Alone On the Sun while he was using an electric guitar. There are, however, a few quickly passing hints on the release where the guitarist shows his playing ability and technique on the acoustic guitar. You can hear all-too-few bars where the acoustic carries the momentum on “You Can Fly”. And with “Man of Constant Sorrow,” the first ninety seconds of the song feature the acoustic as it creates the familiar structure to the bluegrass standard before Shouse changes the feeling of the song by adding the electric guitar to the mix.

The guitar is Michael Shouse’s instrument of choice. So, Alone On the Sun was created in a way to showcase Shouse’s strengths as a guitarist. However, there are some instances where you can also hear Shouse adding a few embellishments to the music by playing the keyboard on part of the title track. Although the brief time the keyboard is part of the mix, you can tell that Shouse is a multi-talented musician.

If the impressive body of music that makes up the album of Alone On the Sun by Shouse isn’t enough for you, the extras includes as part of the CD-Rom part of the package should make the album worth checking out. As part of the computer side of the release, you get the video for the title track to the album, and you also get the charts to learn to play the songs that are included in the release. The tablature for the disc is almost like having one-on-one sessions with Michael Shouse himself.

Hard rock heavy metal, jazz, and even hints of bluegrass all help to help Michael Shouse to create a varied and entertaining new release. If rock guitarists make up a large part of your music collection (or even if they don’t), Alone On the Sun by Shouse is definitely worthy to be added into that collection.

You can find Michael Shouse online at www.mikeshousemusic.com. You can also find him on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/aloneonthesun.