Squire to the stars gets his own stellar ensemble to light the night with urban neon.
Those who know The Deacon only by his service in the churches of Alice Cooper or Lou Reed criminally miss out on his solo career that, since 1977, has been flourishing on the twangy edge of new age. Those who know, though, it will hardly expect straightforward 12-bar figures in pursuit of the right mood. Still, surprising his listeners is Hunter’s forte, one of many, and here the unexpected quotient is upped with Steve’s guests, a bunch of famous midnight ramblers who he trades licks with to heighten the nocturnal tension in the most sympathetic way, as it is in “The Brooklyn Shuffle” rocking graciously hard and passing solos from Hunter to, of all people, Johnny Depp and then to Joe Perry, before Karen Hunter adds doo-wop swing to it.
At a certain point, such an approach helps the veteran, ailing at the time of recording, relocate the action to the more comfortable places so the guitarist, supported by an old compadre Tony Levin, revisits Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill,” a piece they originally played on, for an exquisite, if groovy, instrumental walk into the Salisbury Hotel and beyond. Another Manhattan pad, Hotel Chelsea, lies behind the harmonic grime of “222 W 23rd” in which Michael Lee Firkins’ slide smooths Hunter’s punchy picking and Tommy Henriksen’s submerged rap. This piece, with its programmed drums, picks up where “Busted Trigger Finger” from 2008’s “Short Stories” left off to sharply contrast the rippling serenity of “Prelude To The Blues” and lead into “A Night At The Waldorf” for Phil Aaberg’s piano to jive amid the “Strawberry Fields”-like Mellotron lull.
The Beatlesque anxiety may permeate “Flames At The Dacota” with its ghostly coda and there’s a gloomy undercurrent to the airy, even frosty, reimagining of “What’s Going On,” but the transparent “Ground Zero” sounds rather uplifting in its easy drift. In the same vein, “Gramercy Park” updates classic “Sleep Walk” for a darker hour, yet the short take on Jason Becker’s “Daydream By The Hudson” explores the brighter, liquid possibilities of six strings. A different kind of elegance shines through the murky tones of “Twilight In Harlem” where Joe Satriani and Marty Friedman chime in to cheer it up with cosmic shredding that subsides when “Sunset In Central Park” – colored with a four-string ensemble of Levin’s bass and 2CELLOS – flows into view to put this sweet excursion into Steve Hunter’s beloved city to bed. If you’re in the heart of NYC, you won’t find a better guide than Deacon.