Steel guitar has generally been associated with western swing and honky tonk country, although there have been exceptions with sacred steel gospel players. There have been several notable blues lap steel players including Hop Wilson, L.C. 'Good Rockin'' Robinson, and Sonny Rhodes, and more recently Kenny Neal and Selwyn Birchwood. This is not to forget Freddie Roulette, whose playing with Earl Hooker and the Chicago Blues Stars (including his remarkable playing on "Summertime") and somewhat more recent recordings including the CD backed by Willie Kent and his band, "Back in Chicago," and the overlooked "Man of Steel," that included his recasting of Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder."
Now we have a intriguing new release by steel guitarist Mike Neer, a tribute to Thelonious Monk. Neer (who also plays ukulele, bass on "Ask Me Now" and adds percussion) is backed by Matt King on piano and organ, Andrew Hall on bass and Diego Voglino on drums and percussion with Tom Beckham adding vibes to two tracks. This is a tribute CD that does not take itself too seriously as Neer initially channeling in the Surfaris' "Wipeout" and the Ventures on the opening of "Epistrophy," Then there is the tinge of Western Swing on "I Mean You," with someone (Neer?) chanting like Bob Wills "Steelonious." The following selection, "Off Minor" is a bouncy performance with King on organ. King, is a more conventional keyboard player than Monk was, but the leader's arrangements for the whole group instill the Monkish flavor.
The two tracks with Beckham include "In Walked Bud" which is taken at a slower tempo than the usual buoyant groove while he provides musical color and texture to the lovely "Ask Me Now." Neer's rendition of "Ugly Beauty" is a lovely atmospheric performance, while "Blue Monk," which closes the CD is a nice moody rendition of this classic Monk blues with the rhythm section providing sturdy support. This recording is a delight with some fresh takes on Monk's music. You can purchase as a CD or as a download and Neer has information at http://www.steelonious.com/buy-steelonious/. I recommend purchasing it at bandcamp (mikeneer.bandcamp.com/album/steelonious) where if you purchase the CD, you also get a bonus download track in a briskly paced interpretation of "Well, You Needn't."
I purchased this. Here is a rendition of "Blue Monk."