Steve Wariner Goes ‘All Over the Map’ on New Album [Interview]
Steve Wariner has just released his 20th studio album, All Over the Map, and the collection lives up to its title by offering his longtime fans an exceptionally diverse offering of tracks in a wide variety of musical styles.
Wariner's career divides roughly into two sections. He spent the early years of his career in the 1980 and '90s scoring a number of commercial country hits including "All Roads Lead to You," "Some Fools Never Learn," "Midnight Fire" and "Holes in the Floor of Heaven," later changing his focus to instrumental albums to show off his impressive guitar skills.
The CMA and Grammy-winning musician brings all of those elements together for All Over the Map, which he says has helped him cross a number of items off his musical bucket list. The project began with a track titled "CGP," a tribute to his mentor and friend, Chet Atkins. Along with Jerry Reed, Wariner was one of the only players ever to earn the CGP -- Certified Guitar Player -- title from Atkins. Though it wasn't a formalized honor, it carried a great deal of weight within the country music and guitar communities, coming as it did from one of the most celebrated players in history.
"Without even the intention of making a record, I wrote 'CGP,' and it was one of those songs ... I was playing around one day, and the rhymes just started falling together. And I started thinking, 'How cool would it be to get the other two CGP guys that are still with us -- Tommy Emmanuel and John Knowles -- and get them to come play on it? We should cut a track,'" Wariner tells Taste of Country. "I guess I was longing to get back in the studio, and wanting to get those guys out here with some players. So that's what we did."
The album is peppered with guest appearances from stellar musicians. Eric Johnson plays on "Meanwhile Back in Austin," and Rock and Roll and Musicians Hall of Famer Duane Eddy lends his talents to "Nashville Spy-Line," blending his signature twang with the unusual melody to create a unique, standout moment on an album filled with unique standout moments.
Wariner says it wasn't necessarily his intention to make an album as musically diverse as All Over the Map ended up being. It happened naturally as he assembled the material. The album features a country ballad titled "When I Still Mattered to You" that he wrote with Merle Haggard on a cruise ship in 1996.
"After Merle's death, I realized that I needed to go re-visit that song,' he shares. "I was not in record-making mode, I just wanted to hear that song again. And then I thought, 'Oh man, this should be on this record.' I know it's left-field for this project. It's really the only real country song on here. But I guess you can get away with that these days, so I just put it on there."
"Way It Goes" was inspired by the election cycle that was in full swing when Wariner was working on the album. "I call it silly season," he says, laughing. "So that was kinda my political statement, if you will."
He shows off another side of his instrumental skills on "Modulation Situation," which features Wariner in an instrumental battle with himself, trading licks back and forth between guitar and pedal steel. "I tell people, 'I dueled with myself and I won,'" he jokes. "I came in first and second."
Family ties also play an important role in the new album. "Mr. Roy" is a jazz-country instrumental that was inspired by Wariner's father, who was his earliest musical influence. His youngest son Ross is a composer in New York City, and he consulted with him on certain aspects of arrangements for the album, while his older son, Ryan, is featured on "The Last Word," which he also wrote.
"He's a brilliant guitar player, rock player, and he came in with some licks one night and said, 'What do you think about this?' And he played me what became 'The Last Word,'" Wariner recounts. "I just loved it, I thought it was very Dire Straits, very, very moody. So I said, 'Let's work on that and put it on the record.'"
Ricky Skaggs joins Wariner on a track called "Down Sawmill Road," playing mandolin. The track was inspired by Wariner's mother.
"There really is a Sawmill Road in the little town in Kentucky where my mom and dad are from. My mother was raised on that road, in a little house down Sawmill Road, so I thought that would be a nice title. My mother's been gone for three-and-a-half years now, and I thought that would be a nice little gesture."
The album's closing track, "Augustine's Dream," features Wariner on classical guitar, and is titled after a 4x great-grandfather of his who fought in the Revolutionary War. All Over the Map offers fans a look into Wariner's artistry and creative process that is among the most fully realized work of his entire career, and he says the album is every bit as meaningful to him as it will be to his fans.
"This album is special to me because of those kinds of things, and getting to play with my pals like this is a real treat," he reflects. "A lot of this album is about getting to do those cool bucket list things; talking about Chet and the CGP, and bringing in Eric and Duane and my sons ... it's just me doing what I do," he ends with another laugh. "Just me doing more of what I do."
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