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Mike Keneally - Scambot 2 album review

That rarest of sequels that exceeds the original

It’s almost criminal that Mike Keneally has often been overshadowed by the celebrity guitarists he has backed, from Frank Zappa to Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. Keneally’s work still reflects the influence of his tenure with Zappa through the layered textures of his songwriting but his remarkable facility on guitar, keyboards and whatever else he turns his hand to are all his own.

In this instance that includes playing exuberant banjo on Clipper and lap steel on Freezer Burn. Scambot 2 is the sort-of sequel to 2009’s Scambot, but exchanges the instrumental eccentricities of that record for more listener-friendly, vocal-led tunes. For those who savour the esoteric side of Keneally’s output, Scambot 2 is accompanied by Inkling, a collection of fragments and shards from the album’s sessions packed full of oddness. But the main event finds Keneally in fine mettle, kicking off with the ambitious marathon In The Trees. Roll boasts a great, fat metal riff and Keneally’s solos in both that track and Roots Twist are marvellous. It’s not all full throttle guitar worship as demonstrated by the lovely acoustic tones of Cold Hands Gnat. There’s more invention and six-string ingenuity here than most guitarists manage in a lifetime.