Travis Larson Band Suspension (self-released on Precision, 2001)
Although the Travis Larson Band looks like just another shredder guitarist with a rhythm section to repeat dull riffs so he can solo for seven minutes each song, Suspension shows a few interesting original slants on the instrumental shred guitar style that place Larson slightly above the multitude of guitarists retreading the instrumental guitar ground of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. Suspension, the Travis Larson Band's second CD, features Vai type playing and guitar sound, but in a rock trio setting with lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drums. Compared to the effects-drenched guitar bits, layered synths, and vocals and samples in the lush arrangements of someone like Vai, Suspension sounds refreshingly sparse and clear. Larson's songs move through melodic phrases and solos, often with spartan clean electric or acoustic guitar passages. The riff based, instrumental rock/metal style has basic riffs and grooves laying a foundation for guitar melodies and solos to take the forefront. Rare use of synths, like the mellow breakdown in "934," and the clean piano in the slow fusion groove of "Sandusky Trail," add texture without swamping the uncluttered band sound. The rock instrumentals like "934" and "Powerdown" push a driving beat through occasionally lengthy but always fiery solos. The fusion sounding ballad "Return to Zero" builds as Larson solos smoothly in 9:8 time. The sluggish rendition of "Georgia on My Mind," with guest bassist Vic Wooten of the Flecktones, plods along with excessive guitar and bass solos and flat, uninspired drumming. This sinks the snappy rock trio vibe built up over the first four tracks, but the record rebounds with "Sandusky Trail" and "Frantic Manic." The syncopated trudge of "Squeeze & Shake" sounds like the Flecktones' "Almost 12." Many shred guitarists throw in some acoustic guitar to profess an artsy or mellow side, but Larson's skilled acoustic guitar and the accompanying bass on "Times Like These" shine equally with the electric work on the record. The rhythm guitars sound thick and chewy, and Larson's creamy lead tone soars effortlessly over the band grooves. Guitar overdubs provide harmonies for the leads and rhythm tracks under the solos, but without muffling the dry rock trio feel. The snappy drumming, like the syncopated groove in "934," and the bouncing, trebly bass work by Jennifer Young support the ensemble. The production, by Larson and Young, sounds completely professional. In the bio on the TLB website, Larson cites Vai and Steve Morse as influences. His lead style is rife with signature Vai licks and flashy tricks, but the more subtle and mature influence of Morse's songwriting just barely creeps into the music on Suspension. If Larson can further develop his songwriting maturity and rein in his guitar solo chops a bit, he'll stand out more than just a bit above the crowd of shredder guitarists leading eponymous bands. Reviewed by Scott Andrews [firstname.lastname@example.org] More Info:
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