Life just ain’t fair. When I was fifteen years old, I was singing Beach Boys tunes into a drumstick I had wrapped in masking tape, pretending it was a microphone. Years later (many years later), along comes Mo Canada, just to show me how badly wasted my youth was. Canada is a amazing, young guitar player with a bunch of first-rate friends - Rickie & Ronnie Simpkins and Tony Rice. He’s already playing with power and taste, a true disciple of the Rice school of guitar players. We’re going to be hearing a lot more from him over the years.
Canada’s playing is clearly derived from Rice’s, but he sticks closer to the melody. He shows off an impressive use of timing and space in his breaks. You’d expect someone of his age to just plow through the songs, putting in as many notes as he can, but his breaks in Huckleberry Hornpipe are full of interesting twists, turns and stops. Canada has "touch." There’s a relaxed, comfortable feeling in even the fastest tunes. He doesn’t overplay, doesn’t even seem to wander out on a limb too far. He’s under control at all times.
I suspect that producer Rickie Simpkins had a big hand in setting the direction and pacing. The recording is really put together well - as much a showcase for Simpkins’ mandolin playing as for Canada’s guitar. The mandolin and guitar interplay in the Whiskey Before Breakfast/Arkansas Traveler medley is gorgeous. Even more interesting, because it allows for a direct comparison between Rice and Canada, is Blackberry Blossom, with Tony taking the first and last breaks, while Canada gets his licks in the middle. And Canada doesn’t suffer by comparison at all.
His playing isn’t all speed and flash, either. Lorena is beautifully played, slow in tempo but never dragging. On the whole, none of these tunes are all that obscure and probably didn’t really need to be recorded again, but that’s not a major gripe.
All in all, this is an impressive debut by Mo Canada. He bears watching. Pick up this recording, if you can - not just because you get a chance to hear a great new talent forming. Stoney Lonesome is just plain good picking.