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Link Wray is best known as the badass rockabilly guitarist of the 1950s and 60s who helped popularize the use of fuzz tone and distortion, deployed most famously in the instrumental “Rumble” which gained notoriety after being banned on several radio stations. His pioneering recordings from that era would set a precedent for genres as disparate as surf rock, punk and metal, but what Wray himself did next is less well known.
Re-emerging in the early 1970s, the self-titled Link Wray
displayed a newfound rootsy, americana approach and has since become something of a cult classic. While a commonly cited story purporting the record to have been recorded in a chicken shack has no doubt been embellished over the years, it does give an indication of the rustic sounds contained within; percussion ranges from a shaken can of nails to feet stomped on the floor, predominately acoustic songs are interjected with squalls of fuzzed out guitar and Wray’s vocals remain impassioned but low-key throughout. Among the finest moments are the piano driven opener “La de Da”, gospel-blues “Fire and Brimstone” and “Fallin Rain”, the latter being a beautifully simple, timeless song and the clear highlight here.
Some of the others, pleasant as they may be, are more rudimentary variations of the same themes and don’t hit quite as hard. That’s okay; Link Wray
still has enough going for it to earn the kind of praise usually reserved for his more famous material.