Vince Gill goes dark in ‘Guitar Slinger’ 

It’s little wonder that Nashville icon Vince Gill dubbed his new autumn-issued album “Guitar Slinger” — while fans might revere him for his sweet, honeyed tenor, the guy made his Nashville living for years as one of the most in-demand session guitarists in town. And his sly, subtle fretwork is still some of the best in the business.

But there’s a much darker, more mortality-based theme to his usually chipper material this time around. And not just in obvious cuts like “If I Die.” The single “Threaten Me With Heaven” is his first in four years. It’s a gorgeous loping ballad, sung from the grim perspective of a man on his deathbed, and it took on an ominous new significance after one of its co-writers, Will Owsley, recently committed suicide. Gill calls it a “powerful, powerful song ... the crown jewel of the new record.”

Another processional, “Billy Paul,” is a true-life tale of murder-suicide. Gill isn’t pulling any punches here. There are happier cuts here, to be sure. And the home-studio-tracked sessions were a real family affair, featuring Gill’s wife Amy Grant, plus their three daughters, Jenny, Sarah and 9-year-old Corrina.

To date, the man has sold over 26 million albums, and won 20 Grammys and 18 CMAs. And his fingerpicking skills are still in high demand — he’s just worked with Carrie Underwood, Alice Cooper, Keb Mo, Crystal Bowersox and The Blind Boys Of Alabama, among others.

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