Steve Wariner

Article Published: Mar. 3, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Steve Wariner

Guitar Laboratory

The mad scientist is rarely seen, spending the breadth of this time behind closed doors, endlessly experimenting.

Outsiders may think he is insane, eccentric, dangerous, or maybe even a genius. Once some of these scientists start on their grand experiment, they are never to be heard from again.

Others, after many days and long hours of toiling, emerge from their lab with a masterpiece, as is the case with Steve Wariner and his "Guitar Laboratory."

Steve Wariner, active in country music for nearly four decades, released his 18th album, "Guitar Laboratory," in February 2011. Starting out in Dottie West's band at age 17, he moved on to play with Grand Ole Opry star Bob Luman and eventually went on to be the bass player in his hero, Chet Atkins', band for several years. Recording as a solo artist since 1976, Wariner has charted more than 50 singles on the Billboard country charts, including 10 No. 1 hits, and has also picked up numerous awards along the way. Having also written No. 1 hits for Garth Brooks and Clint Black, Wariner's music, in a number of forms, is familiar to millions of country music fans.

Wariner's "Guitar Laboratory" is a collection of guitar-related experiments conducted in his "Twangri La" studio in Franklin, Tenn. A radically different approach for Steve, he describes the album "a 'laboratory' of sorts to give me the opportunity to explore and search for guitar textures, tones. 'Guitar Laboratory' represents without a doubt the most versatile project I've recorded."

Versatile is an understatement for a man famous for soft-country ballads like "I'm Already Taken" and "Holes in the Floor of Heaven." On Guitar Laboratory, not only does Wariner reach back to his Chet Atkins roots, but also explores outside of his familiar territory with rock 'n' roll, blues, jazz and even Hawaiian sounds.

"Guitar Laboratory" is a paradise for any player or fan of first-rate guitar playing. Nearly all-instrumental, Wariner chimes in only every now and then with brief proclamations of excitement.

Listeners of "Guitar Laboratory" can undoubtedly spend several hours getting pleasurably lost within it, examining Wariner's various tests.

Wariner named the opening track of the album "Tele Kinesis" because of his choice of instrument and the incredible amount of movement of his hand over its fret board. From the opening lick, Wariner's fingers rarely rest, delivering more than 40 minutes of thorough analysis executed on resonator, acoustic, steel string, classical and pedal steel guitars consisting of numerous makes and models.

Whether he stays within the country style or ventures out in other territory, Wariner does not disappoint with anything he attempts to tackle on "Guitar Laboratory." The left-field songs of the album are impressive, especially the heavy-hitting "Sting Ray." This song leaves one wondering what may have come of Wariner if he had pursued rock music from the beginning.

Wariner takes quite a bit of liberty on "Guitar Laboratory," but he will always be a Chet Atkins-loving country music guitarist. No matter what Wariner plays, there is always a touch of country, but it comes through clear on "Kentuckiana" and his rendition of "Sugarfoot Rag." Particularly special is "PALS," which Wariner performs with his former Chet Atkins bandmate, Paul Yandell.

Guitarists who pick up "Guitar Laboratory" will appreciate the liner notes Wariner includes with the album. Along with a description of every song, Wariner often provides information on the guitars used and other details of the recordings.

There have been several labels attached to Steve Wariner, but the only one that matters is the one that Chet Atkins bestowed upon him - "Certified Guitar Player." Notice that country is not included in that title. "Guitar Laboratory" shows Wariner can put his skill to work in any setting and still have outstanding results.

Steve Wariner is online at

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