It has been noted in the music media that Seattle-based Grunge rock and subsequent movements have killed the guitar hero. Kurt Cobain? Please, he was fair as a garage rock guitarist. Pearl Jam? Nothing special, they are all Eddie Vedder. Mark Tremonti of Creed and Staind’s Michael Mushok play no lead guitar, satisfied with playing in alternate tunings. The best guitarists performing today do so on the fringes and with some caveats. Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, two hyper-talented guitarists, rarely rise above being excellent technicians with nothing interesting to say. Eric Johnson and Yngwie Malmsteen have chops equal to Satriani and Vai but play a soulless brand of rock best suited for the Muzak system in a headbanger’s dentist’s office.
Eric Sardinas is a bit of a different guitar god animal. He has all of the hard rock credentials of the previously mentioned guitarists plus Johnny Winter, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, and Zakk Wylde. But he has a slide guitar facility that eclipses them all save Johnny Winter. Add to this that his axe of choice is an acoustic/electric resophonic guitar (essentially a dobro) and these facts alone make him something special.
Sardinas' recordings previous to the present Black Pearls are excellent examples of blues-rock fusion and sported guest musicians of the likes of Johnny Winter and Hubert Sumerlin. His style can be described as "molten Delta." That is a justifiable position. Sardinas is better schooled in the Delta masters than any many guitarists performing. His guitar playing is beyond reproach. The same cannot be said for his lyric-writing ability. Sardinas does pepper his lyrics with 1930s rural blues vernacular that includes Skip James’ "Killing Floor" that Sardinas flees on "Same Ol’ Thing.". And, the rider to whom Sardinas is returning on "Big Red Line" is the same one Charlie Patton referred to in his 1929 "Pony Blues." But, right now, these images sound a bit out of place.
Sardinas is absolutely ferocious on the disc’s single slow blues, "Liar’s Dice Blue." His lead guitar is Stevie Ray Vaughan heated to the temperature of the sun. While the remaining songs are not exactly pedestrian, they are not to the level that this very gifted musician is capable of hitting. Having said that, cue up track 12, "Wicked Ways," and hear Sardinas channel Son House through the earth’s core. In a seriously inspired moment at the end of the song, Sardinas summons every blues spirit at his disposal. Eric Sardinas has yet to produce his masterpiece, and I want to be there when he does.
For more information, see Eric Sardinas and Favored Nations Records .