Steve Wariner’s successes as a country vocalist and songwriter during the past 17 years have overshadowed his astounding talents as a guitarist. But that’s about to change: Early next year, Arista Records will release No More Mr. Nice Guy, Wariner’s most personal and artistically adventurous album to date. Basically a collection of instrumental piecesall of which Wariner wrote or cowrotethe album is a kaleidoscope of musical styles, from blues, jazz and swing to semi-classical, country and pop. To assist him in this self-produced labor of love, Wariner drafted some of the best pickers on the planet, including his mentor and idol, Chet Atkins, Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora, Vince Gill, Lee Roy Parnell, Leo Kottke, Larry Carlton, Mark O’Connor, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Mac McAnally and others.
Wariner says he originally intended to be a guitarist, back in the days when he was a kid gigging with local bands in his native Indiana. He soon discovered, however, that his singing was more marketable than his picking. When he was 18, Dottie West hired him to sing and play bass in her band. After three years with West, he joined Bob Luman’s group. Subsequently, he performed and recorded with Chet Atkins. Atkins signed him to RCA Records in 1976 and became his first producer. Wariner made his chart debut in 1978 and has continued to chart every year since.
Mark O’Connor gave Wariner a chance to showcase a bit of his guitar prowess when he invited him to perform on the 1991 album New Nashville Cats. “Restless,” a cut from the album that featured Wariner, O’Connor, Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs, went on to win a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Collaboration and a Country Music Association award for Vocal Event of the Year. On the new album, Gill trades guitar licks with Wariner on the hard-driving title cut, while O’Connor’s fiddle animates the elegant “Prelude/Practice Your Scales Somewhere Else” and the frolicsome “Hap Towne Breakdowne.”
By Wariner’s account, the 12 songs that make up are more the products of evolution than design. “If You Can’t Say Something Good...,” for example, began as a jam session at cowriter Mac McAnally’s house. The two men decided that what they were playing sounded so right that they recorded it on a DAT machine; this home-recorded version was used on the album. Leo Kottke visited Wariner for a couple of days of picking, a collaboration that was ultimately distilled into “Don’t Call Me Ray.” Richie Sambora couldn’t come to Nashville because he was on tour with Bon Jovi; consequently, he recorded his part for “Guitar Talk” at a tiny studio in Singapore.
As he was working on the album, Wariner was also writing and jamming periodically with several new country performers. The upshot of these mentoring sessions was that four of these “young guns,” as he calls them, volunteered to display their chops on “The Brickyard Boogie.” Wariner even prevailed on baseball great Nolan Ryan to provide a spoken introduction to the album by taping him when the two were on a fishing excursion in the Gulf of Mexico.
Wariner has always been one of country music’s most engaging performers, but on his upcoming LP he has created a refreshing departure from conventional country fare. It is inventive, mood-provoking, enchantingly varied, and soulfully executed throughout. But don’t believe the title for a momenthe’s still a nice guy.
♦ K.T. Oslin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bryan White, Pam Tillis, John Berry, Gail Davies, Victoria Shaw, Mark Luna, David Ball and Tony Arata are among the acts scheduled to perform Dec. 4 at the third annual Country Music CARES concert at the Grand Ole Opry House. The event raises funds for Nashville CARES (Council on AIDS Resources, Education and Services). A silent auction, open only to those attending the concert, will be held in the lobby of the Opry House during the show. It will feature memorabilia autographed by country stars, as well as four round-trip tickets from Southwest Airlines. Tickets are available from TicketMaster.
♦ It is always risky to predict, but if Lisa Brokop’s new single, “She Can’t Save Him,” doesn’t make her a star, something is seriously out of kilter in the universe.
I think it's weird when speculation is wedged into an otherwise straightforward biography. I love…
I always read your column BEFORE I watch the show anymore. It's better that way.
What's the other review you read?
This was the worse review I've ever read. Maybe you should quit this career path…
You Ms Spurgeon are (in the vernacular of us journalists) 'the shit' keep up the…