Jon Rauhouse and Tommy Connell Jon Rauhouse's Steel Guitar Rodeo

This nearly perfect album of steel guitar showmanship features some of the finest names in Americana, including great vocals by Neko Case, Sally Timms, Kelly Hogan, Carolyn Mark, Howe Gelb and rhythm by Joey Burns and John Convertino. Instead of sounding like Calexico, what cements this record together is Jon Rauhouse’s steel and Hawaiian guitar playing, as well as his overall invisible hand guiding the forum for these collected players to make something pretty phenomenal. Largely, there’s an old-timey feel to the record, which includes instrumentals like Powerhouse, the frantic music they put in Bugs Bunny cartoons whenever one of the animated creatures got thrown onto an assembly line with a stunned look on his face. It brings an instant smile of recognition. For his part, Rauhouse sings a couple Depression-era sounding tunes, one bemoaning work as a dirty word, the other happily praising corn and coffee. Charming stuff. For good luck, the original Perry Mason theme is styled up, too. Take that, Ozzy! Essentially a showboat for Rauhouse’s mastery of lap string instruments, he almost couldn’t have picked a better cast to sing and play a better bunch of songs. Definitely leaning away from the typical Nashville session steel towards a more aloha-laden sound, Rauhouse pays tremendous tribute without ever becoming tiki tacky. What’s more, your grandmother would love this album, too. Impressive. (Bloodshot)