Oscar Alemán is one of the great unknown talents in jazz history. A brilliant guitarist who sounded very close to Django Reinhardt at times, Alemán was overshadowed in Europe by Reinhardt in the 1930s and spent much of the rest of his career in his native Argentina, remaining well known only in that country. This 1998 double CD from Dave Grisman's Acoustic Disc label has highlights from Alemán's career, including the eight selections he recorded during his three European sessions of 1938-1939, plus music from 1941-1947 and 1951-1954. Although the settings varied (including a sextet with violinist Svend Asmussen, a nonet, and two unaccompanied guitar solos), Alemán's basic swing style stayed the same, retaining its enthusiasm and creativity and remaining unaffected by bop. Sticking throughout to acoustic guitar and taking an occasional good-time vocal, Alemán is heard in peak form. He deserves to be much better known. A definitive two-fer from a major talent.
It's clear that Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers were given a bigger budget on his second album, 1990's Guitar Trouble, a record that has clean, slick punch thanks to Dwight Yoakam producer Pete Anderson and star cameos from the likes of Chuck Berry pianist Johnnie Johnson. Anderson's presence and his drafting of Johnson conspire to give Conwell a roots rock credibility he never aspired to in the first place, probably because he was writing boogies like "Let Me Love You Too" to get the barroom rocking – and when he wasn't doing that, he could toss off a bit of Sun rockabilly in the title track or turn introspective in songs like "I'm Seventeen," an angst anthem that plays like shorthand Paul Westerberg.