Some musicians just have a certain skill set. You know, the one that could make "Mary Had A Little Lamb" entertaining enough for you to go out and buy their cover of it? As on his previous albums, guitarist Mark Lettieri's fifth solo outing Things of That Nature reminds us that he is one of those guys.
It also reminds us that despite having those serious chopsand a proclivity to rock-outLettieri puts way too much emphasis on musical finesse to ever be confused with a shredder. The opening "Blockheads" may fully revel in unabashed rock tones but somehow manages to feel nuanced and untethered simultaneously.
With the up-beat funk of the ensuing "Naptime," the sultry, building boil of "Seuss Pants," the r&b/jazz inflected "Bubinga" and the shimmering acoustic workout "Ojai," Lettieri injects plenty of other influences into the mix. This ability to energize and blend various styles along with Lettieri's mastery of the three "T's" tone, touch and tasteis the album's real forte. This all may be best exemplified on the album's centerpiece, "Point Iz."
In a way, it's reminiscent of another capable "ML" initialed guitaristMichael Landau. But while this comparison works well to describe the level of instrumental mastery on Things of That Nature, Lettieri's style is an amalgam all his own(clearly that other "ML" hadn't grown up listening to Van Halen, Prince and Steely Dan or cut his teeth in the Dallas gospel/r&b scene.)
The great backing ensemble (consisting of bassist Wes Stephenson, drummer Jason “JT” Thomas, keyboardists Shaun Martin, Bobby Ray Sparks, Justin Stanton and saxman Bob Reynolds) gives wonderfully transparent support to Lettieri throughout. Their chops are obvious but their purely musical choices serve to emphasize the well-crafted aspects of the compositions and put Lettieri's guitar where it clearly belongsin the forefront. It makes for an enjoyable ride that showcases Lettieri in arguably his best form yet.
All in all, with Things of That Nature, Lettieri has pulled off a nice trick, making an album laden with enviable chops without that pesky guitar-slinger aftertaste. Perhaps because he puts the most enviable "chop" of all firstmusicality.
Blockheads; Naptime; Suess Pants; Point Iz; Chicory; Bubinga; Huh; Ojai.
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