Van Wilks

Record review

Texas Platters

Van Wilks

Running From Ghosts (Dixiefrog)

Embarrassment of riches. That's Austin's story when it comes to gifted blues-rock guitarists, and Van Wilks is an easy exemplar. The South Austinite has chops to spare, strumming and soloing around the rock-blues-pop nexus with ease since the Seventies, opening for marquee acts like ZZ Top. In Europe, where this guitar teacher tours successfully every year, these skills are a hot commodity. Yet in Central Texas, such playing is nearly ordinary. Wilks' sixth full-length is composed of originals, a half-duration cover of Traffic's "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," and two new renderings from Bombay Tears, his 1980 Mercury debut. Wilks' working of "Low Spark" demonstrates proficiency but stalls in the creativity department, and while Wilks can sing, à la Eric Johnson, people tune in for guitaring here, making instrumentals "New Day Dawning" and "Happy Hour at the Asylum" more palatable than the 10 remaining vocal tracks. International fans will no doubt eat up Running From Ghosts, but it'll take more to prick Longhorn ears.

**

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