Review: Guitar czar Joel Paterson rules on retro Beatles ode

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Joel Paterson, “Let it Be Guitar!” (Bloodshot Records)

Close your eyes, picture Chet Atkins pulling up a bar stool on the beach at Waikiki and coolly plucking out a surfy rendition of Paul McCartney’s iconic “Michelle.”

That’s just one of the sounds Chicago-based guitar wizard Joel Paterson conjures up on his new instrumental collection of 16 classic Beatles’ songs. “Let it Be Guitar!” showcases Paterson’s signature self-assured retro style, filled with flourishes of vintage rock, jazz, country and blues.

The reverb-heavy trills and twangs of Paterson’s “This Boy” perfectly echo the longing of a jilted boyfriend. The jazzy plucking on “Honey Pie” creates a jauntier feeling. Fans who’ve watched Paterson perform live know his mastery comes straight-faced. The emotion comes from his nimble fingers, picking, plucking and strumming to evoke ethos and a mid-century mood. On the mod and swoony “If I Fell,” the playful undertones almost make you want to blurt out “cha, cha, cha.”

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Paterson is a titan in Chicago’s roots music scene and has toured in Europe but deserves broader attention. He’s accompanied here by a trio of equally stellar Chicago-based musicians and sometimes bandmates: Beau Sample on bass, Alex Hall on drums and organist Chris Foreman.

The tracks cover some of the Fab Four’s most iconic records, including “Abbey Road,” ”A Hard Day’s Night,” ”Rubber Soul” and the “White Album,” but oddly — given the title choice — not “Let it Be.” Be assured that Paterson has a reason.

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