Nick Bollinger lends an ear to the first solo set from veteran Memphis session guitarist Reggie Young.
If there’s something familiar about that guitar – the tone, the touch, the taste – then think of ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’, ‘Drift Away’ ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘Angel Of The Morning’… apart from being some of the greatest pop records of the 60s and 70s, they all featured this guitarist: Reggie Young. He might not be a household name, but he’s played on literally thousands of records, the ones I’ve mentioned being just a the tip of the iceberg. And each one of them has been improved in some way by his beautiful and very distinctive guitar. Now, at 80, he’s finally made a whole album of that guitar.
Forever Young would be a corny title if it wasn’t in this case entirely accurate. The playing here is as subtle and steady-handed as anything Young has done in a recording career of more than 60 years. Young was originally from Missouri, but moved to Memphis in the 50s, just after the city had given birth to rock’n’roll. Elvis had already left for Hollywood, but after a stint backing Johnny Horton, Reggie wound up with Elvis’s original Sun studios bass player Bill Black as a member of the Bill Black Combo, with whom he played all over the world – they even toured with the Beatles – up until Black’s death in 1965. After that, he gravitated to the studios, specifically the Memphis-based American studio, where he would back everyone from Dusty Springfield to Elvis himself. And in a way, this solo set is an homage to that period. These instrumentals, though all Young originals, could almost be backing tracks just waiting for a soulful singer to strut their stuff.
Reggie Young’s Forever Young isn’t a flamboyant set, but in its quiet way it places at centre stage, for once, what this eminently tasteful player has been doing for an entire career.