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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shouse - Alone On The Sun

Shouse - Alone On The Sun
2010, Spektrum Productions

Lexington, Kentucky’s Mike Shouse fell for the guitar at the age of seventeen, seduced by the sounds of Joe Satriani.  It wasn’t long before he also found Steve Vai, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and several other icons of the classic and alternative rock and heavy metal.  Shouse dedicated himself to learning everything he could about the guitar.  Along the way he also developed his skills as an artist and became an educator in art.  These days Shouse teaches art, teaches guitar on the side and continues to write and play original songs.  His latest offerings are in the form of Alone On The Sun.

Alone On The Sun opens with "Bionic", a dynamic guitar-led instrumental full of vicious licks and runs.  Shouse introduces the song with a kitschy take on the opening monologue of The Six Million Dollar Man.  Shouse blends the lyricism of Eric Johnson and the fire of Steve Vai here, veering toward the heavier side sound-wise.  Shouse's pick work is almost maniacally fast here.  "Man Of Constant Sorrow" is a heavy blues/rock take on the classic blues tune; an above average take built around great pacing and an almost disturbing harmony mix on the vocals.  "The Arabian" is a guitar-led instrumental full of the tricks and traps of 1980's heavy metal.  The song is contemplative in its own fashion but prone to explosive outbursts and longitudinal riffs.

"Choices" finds Shouse engaged in more of a pop/rock instrumental with a decent melody.  For all of the focus on the lead guitar, there's a great deal going on here behind the lead for those who want to dig into it.  "Shock And Awe" is as dynamic as the title implies.  You could see this being used as the soundtrack to a wartime propaganda film on one of the major news networks, or perhaps even concordant to a flight scene in Top Gun 2.  "You Can Fly" shows off Shouse's mellower side without losing a lick of energy.  This quiet moment precedes the technical brilliance of "Dead In Memphis", which opens with a Memphis blues/rock riff and moves quickly into a straight-ahead rocker with influences courtesy of Eddie Van Halen.  Shouse goes to town here, perhaps his greatest moment of abandon on the album.  Alone On The Sun closes with "For Alex", a lyric instrumental that sounds like incidental music from a 1980's Rat Pack film. 

Shouse proves his guitar chops on Alone On The Sun, a surprisingly engaging album considering its focus on primarily instrumental rock tunes with guitar lead.  Such releases often are highly self-indulgent and self-referential.  Shouse avoids this trap, staying centrally focused while nurturing each arrangement to its fullest potential without losing the guitar focus.  That's not to say that Shouse excels at every step, but even the less exciting moments are eminently listenable.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

 Learn more about Shouse at or  Alone On The Sun is available from as a CD or Download.  Digital copies are also available from iTunes

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