Todd Grubbs
Return of the Worm
Grubbworm Music

Readers email me all the time to ask if they can send in an album for Media Reviews consideration. I always encourage them to do so, but I always include the caveat that—with only a handful of slots and the world being full of so many amazing players in so many genres—competition is pretty stiff. I listen to every album that comes across my desk, no matter how home-job-y the cover may look or how cliché the song titles may sound (songs like “Shred Planet” or “Dead Man Blues” are pretty common, as are pics of every piece of gear the player owns), but Todd Grubbs’ latest effort is a perfect example of why I give everything a shot: The cover image of a PRS guitar painted with an exploding sun and an evil grub worm and the interior shots of sour gummy worms and an emaciated elephant are sort of par for the guitar-centric-CD course, but spinning the disc raised my eyebrows: Grubbs can shred like crazy—Steve Vai’s influence is evident on solos throughout, including on “I Am Not a Commentator” (which also has tasty harmonized parts reminiscent ofTime Odyssey-era Vinnie Moore)—but he also has a knack for engaging soundscapes (“5 After 4 in the Morning” begins with relaxing crickets and cinematically panned train and barking-dog clips, in addition to ethereal chords awash in lush reverb) and a penchant for quirky sound bites. Besides being able to rip like noteworthy guitar gods, Grubb also doles out convincing funk, neck-pickup blues (“You Can Do It”), and jam-band (“Number Station”) vibes. Overall, the difference between Grubbs and some of the other dexterous players we get discs from is that he seems to pay as much attention to tones, chord progressions, phrasing, and injecting his own personality into things as he does to jaw-dropping licks. Kudos, Todd!