Monday, August 14, 2006

Strummin’ With the Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen

Van Halen: The Where Are They Now Extravaganza - Part I

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Strummin’ With The Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen Featuring David Lee Roth (2006)

Stummin’ With The Devil is the latest in a string of Bluegrass tribute albums that have been released in the last few years. AC/DC, Metallica, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Dave Mathews, John Mayer and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are just some of the artists whose material has received the Bluegrass treatment and now Van Halen joins their ranks. What makes this time out different from the others is not the endorsement of, but the contribution to the album by original Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth.

Roth lends his trademark vocals to the first two tracks, Jump and Jamie’s Cryin’, on Strummin’ With The Devil which are preformed by the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band. Jump is also included a second time at the end of the disc as a “Radio Edit” version. David Lee Roth’s presence on the tracks is unmistakable and while he is more laid back here than in any other of his recorded performances, he is still, unmistakably, Diamond Dave.

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Several artists, some of which include the previously mentioned John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band on Jump and Jamie’s Cryin’, Cornbread Red playing Panama, The Nashville Bluegrass Band covering Could This Be Magic? and an outstanding rendition of I’ll Wait by Blue Highway help to round out the album’s fifteen tracks.

All the tracks on Strummin’ With The Devil are stripped down acoustic versions of their original classic Van Halen counterparts. While the presentation of such signature electric tracks such as Jump, Unchained and even Eruption may at first seem odd and out of place, with each subsequent listen that misconception fades away to reveal the intricate arrangements and extraordinary musicianship that makes up Strummin’ With The Devil.

The versions of the songs made famous by the Van Halen brothers, Michael Anthony and David Lee Roth that are included on Strummin’ With The Devil are elegant in their new skin while still holding onto the feel that made them classics in the first place. Van Halen, David Lee Roth and Bluegrass fans should love Strummin’ With The Devil equally for the reverent treatment of the material as well as for its genre bending renditions. Van Halen has always been fun, especially the Roth era Van Halen. As a tribute, Strummin’ With The Devil hits that nail right on the head and yet manages to do so respectfully.

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