On "Bakersfield," Vince Gill and pedal-steel guitarist Paul Franklin pay homage to what many people consider the Golden Age of country.

Vince Gill and Paul Franklin
MCA Nashville

Now that modern country music has veered more toward the pop metal of the 1980s, it’s sublimely refreshing to hear how two grand masters of guitar pay homage to what many people consider the Golden Age of country. On Bakersfield, Vince Gill and pedal-steel guitarist Paul Franklin team up for a collection of tunes that harken back to the time when the sounds coming out of Southern California rebelled against the overproduced string-laden tracks that Nashville was producing at the time.

Gill’s tone is pitch perfect—just the right amount of Tele snap—and he admirably handles all the lead parts while Franklin’s weeping pedal steel bends (especially on “The Bottle Let Me Down”) show exactly why he’s been a first-call session player for decades. Drawing exclusively from the catalogs of Merle Haggard (who contributed to the liner notes) and Buck Owens, Gill and Franklin aren’t out to reinvent the tunes, but they find a way to interject their own style and, in doing so, allow the songs to breathe. The opener, “Foolin’ Around” is a great showcase not only for the country shuffle of bassist Willie Weeks and drummer Greg Morrow, but Franklin’s swinging fills that always seem to fit around Gill’s vocals with restraint and taste. Bakersfield is a perfect example of taking inspirado from your heroes and using your talents to move the music forward.

Must-hear track: “Nobody’s Fool But Yours”

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"'If I fall and somehow my career ends on that particular day, then so be it," Joe Bonamassa says of his new hobby, bicycling. "If it's over, it's over. You've got to enjoy your life."

Photo by Steve Trager

For his stylistically diverse new album, the fiery guitar hero steps back from his gear obsession and focuses on a deep pool of influences and styles.

Twenty years ago, Joe Bonamassa was a struggling musician living in New York City. He survived on a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ramen noodles that he procured from the corner bodega at Columbus Avenue and 83rd Street. Like many dreamers waiting for their day in the sun, Joe also played "Win for Life" every week. It was, in his words, "literally my ticket out of this hideous business." While the lottery tickets never brought in the millions, Joe's smokin' guitar playing on a quartet of albums from 2002 to 2006—So, It's Like That, Blues Deluxe, Had to Cry Today, and You & Me—did get the win, transforming Joe into a guitar megastar.

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