A lifetime of lessons in six-string-guitar-swing. Jazz-meets-country in an impossibly hot session, circa 1959. A platter of lightning-fast picking and impeccable taste from the legendary George Barnes. The description on the back of the original album reads: "A wonderful collection of Western favorites that everyone will love – and played in the traditional Western style." The front cover features a more accurate explanation: "Great guitar solos in modern country jazz style" – as if "modern country jazz" was an established category – though, if anyone could establish a new species of music, it was George.
Country Jazz was not designed to explore a new iteration of country music, rockabilly – but when George added his own twist of jazz, the resulting influence was unmistakable. His arrangements of traditional folk and country songs represent the enjoyment he got out of crossing musical genres. After all, he could, and did, play anything – which made him invaluable in the studios of Chicago and New York City, but also meant he defied categorization, inadvertently denying himself a prestigious place in any one class of musician.
Country Jazz was fun for George; little did he know it would become one of his most influential recordings. It's been said that one Barnes fan, the terrific guitarist Danny Gatton, learned it note-for-note – and that it inspired Jimmy Bryant to record his Country Cabin Jazz in 1960. Young guitarists who hadn't yet been born when George died in 1977 are as enthralled by Country Jazz as rock guitarists are of anything from Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton, who referenced George in his autobiography.