A pair of recent recordings, Eric Johnson and Mike Stern’s Eclectic and Joe Bonamassa’s Different Shades of Blue, reveal what Late Show drummer Anton Fig is up to when he’s away from the TV cameras—namely, making some famous guitar slingers very, very happy.
The prolific Joe Bonamassa chose Nashville to record his latest album, but it sounds more like Memphis. Parts of Different Shades of Blue have a delta feel—raw, like a Chris Whitley record—while other sections mimic Muscle Shoals in their big, horn-fueled funk and rock attack. Bonamassa rips, of course, but the superb drumming of Anton Fig, timely and showy, also contributes greatly throughout. Fig absolutely nails the loping “I Gave Up Everything for You” and doubles crisp accents with the horns on “Living on the Moon.” He certainly knows how to leave space between the beats too, as on the medium shuffle of “Heartache Follows Wherever I Go” and the dramatic and dynamic riffs of “Oh Beautiful!” And the drummer’s cowbell under the verse of “Get Back My Tomorrow” is subtle and effective, while his sly, funky “Trouble Town” intro vividly conjures a 1960s soul vibe. (J&R Adventures)
A longtime stint on the Late Show With David Letterman, where he gets to back up every kind of artist imaginable, certainly prepares Fig to execute the various beats on Eclectic, an incendiary summit between the six-string luminaries Eric Johnson and Mike Stern. Fig kicks off opening track “Roll With It” with a slinky second-line funk beat, rides the rims effectively during the heads of the two-feel country-swing tune “Benny Man’s Blues,” plays propulsive brushes on “Wishing Well,” ticks off the time of “Wherever You Go” with light rimclick backbeats, and rocks the intro of “Dry Ice” with big, beefy flams. Cue up “Remember” to hear Fig go from a Latin ride section to a quick swing to a hip “Gypsy Queen”–style ending vamp solo that’s over too soon. The target audience here might be guitarists, but the marquee names on the front know who to hire behind the kit for any record titled Eclectic. (Heads Up International)