The featured players on this project each bring a different background, style and approach to country guitar. And each one of them delivers in a big way. (Note: click the soloists' name for an .aiff audio clip of some of their licks.)

Dave Biller is originally from Indiana and it was his ''gentle nudge'' to producer/picker Jim Stringer that got Travis County Pickin' under way. (Many thanks Dave!) Dave's dad was a jazz'er and his grandfather (who loved Les Paul and Chet Atkins) was a western swing and country guitarist. Dave's guitar/musical influences cover the whole spectrum from Deep Purple, Kiss and Led Zeppelin to Roy Nichols, Jimmy Bryant, Pat Martino, to Stan Getz, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Dave is a wonderfully versatile ''Telecasterist'' (he's completely at home in country-jazz, Bakersfield style and western swing) whose primary guitar hero is Bakersfield Tele' master Roy Nichols. Dave paid his dues in Dale Watson's Lone Stars and late last year left to join Ted Roddy's Tearjoint Troubadours. His instrument of choice is a 1953 Fender Telecaster though a blackface Fender Twin with JBLansings.

Joel Hamilton grew up in Meridian, Mississippi (the home of Peavey) and began playing guitar at 14.His early influences included AC/DC's Angus Young and Edward Van Halen. After high school Joel attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston for two years. And those two years significantly expanded his musical horizons and playing skills. (Project producer/picker Jim Stringer jokingly told me ''We're all real fond of Joel and we don't hold that Berklee thing against him.'') The key event in Joel's experience at Berklee was a clinic/benefit concert that featured the late, great Danny Gatton. Danny talked about players like Scotty Moore, Jimmy Bryant, Les Paul and others and this totally changed Joel's guitar focus. In 1993 Joel moved to Austin primarily to play blues and rockabilly and by 1995 he began to play regularly in a number of country bands. Currently with Clay Blaker's Texas Honky Tonk Band, Joel plays a Hamer T-51 through a Peavey Classic 50.

Brian Hofeldt was born in Idaho but grew up in Portland, Oregon. He picked up the guitar at the age of 13 and almost immediately became a George Harrison/Beatles devotee. It was through George Harrison's playing on Beatles covers of tunes like ''Honey Don't'' and ''Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby'' that Brian learned about American rockabilly and players like the great Carl Perkins. The Beatles also covered ''Act Naturally'' and hearing their version was the very beginning of Brian's genuine affinity for Buck Owens, Don Rich and the distinctive Bakersfield country sound. Brian moved to Austin in 1993 at the urging of current bandmate and former Oregonian Tony O. Villanueva - who found the scene very cool. The two of them formed the Derailers in '93 and right now the band is on the edge of a real breakthrough in mainstream popularity. Brian plays a '68 Fender Telecaster through a '68 Fender Twin.

Sean Mencher came to Austin via Washington, D.C. Sean started pickin' at the relatively ''old'' age of 18. In late high school Sean became interested in rockabilly, hillbilly, bluegrass and rhythm and blues music and the D.C area scene provided him with a lot to check out. At about the same time Sean heard his first Merle Travis song (''Love Letters In The Sand'') on WAMU radio. This was the beginning of Sean's devotion to thumb pickin'. Shortly after hearing Merle Travis a friend showed Sean how to play ''Freight Train'' and his devotion to ''thumb style'' playing was guaranteed. And I can't think of anything more appropriate than having an authentic Travis style picker on a project called Travis County Pickin'. Sean moved to Austin in early 1987 to check out the scene and in 1988 he and Kevin Smith and Shaun Young formed High Noon (a very fine/eclectic rockabilly trio) - which as of this writing, is still going strong.

Rick ''Casper'' Rawls is a Texas native. He hails from Helotes which is just north of San Antonio. Casper's early guitar influences included The Ventures and Duane Eddy. His early country influences were largely shaped by all the great musicians that he saw at John T. Floores Country Store (a honky tonk in Helotes). Folks like Willie Nelson, Buddie Emmons, Billy Byrd and almost every cool player who backed a country vocalist would gather on Sunday afternoons following a Saturday night gig in San Antonio and play at John T's place. In high school Casper became a fan of Eric Clapton (during his stint with Cream) and through Eric discovered Freddy King. And while attending the University of Texas, Antone's was a regular hangout. His primary country guitar heroes are all legends: James Burton, Clarence White and Don Rich. Casper plays a paisley Fender Telecaster with a Parsons-White Stringbender through a Fender Princeton or Lab Series L5.

Jim Stringer is the producer of this fine project and he also picks some nifty numbers too. Originally from Kansas City he was raised on a wonderfully eclectic blend of music including hillbilly, rock and roll, blues and rhythm and blues. Jim started playing guitar back in '56 and formed his first band (which played instrumentals by artists like Duane Eddy, Link Wray, Chet Atkins and The Ventures) in 1960. During the 1960's Jim attended the University of Kansas and delved quite seriously into jazz guitar. Some of his favorites include Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and Howard Roberts. In 1975 Jim got his first serious country gig and played with Billy Spears, a very fine fiddler. Since the late 70's Jim has made a living as a ''recording guy'' as well as a very tasty guitarist. He's also composed music for several hundred industrial and educational films and commercials. In 1994 Jim moved to Austin to be closer to the source of the rockabilly, country, jump blues and swing music he's loved for years. Jim plays mid-80's G&L ASAT through a '64 Fender Pro.

Scott Walls is originally from Pennsylvania and came to Austin via Nashville. Scott's a great steel guitarist but the steel wasn't his first instrument. He started on piano at 4 years old and then played horns, bass guitar and other instruments. Scott started on the steel when he was 13 and played on the Grand Ole Opry (with Shot Jackson) when he was only 15! Scott's early steel influences include some of the best players ever: Buddie Emmons, Curly Chalker (Scott's mentor), Speedy West and Lloyd Green. And Scott was fortunate to meet many other great steel'ers during his 5 year stint with the Nashville-based Sho-Bud company. During his early years as a steel'er Scott played rock 'n roll, pop, jazz, country and even some new wave. Scott moved from Nashville to Austin (specifically for the chance to play swing and country-jazz) in 1980. On stage with Don Walser and The Pure Texas Band, Scott plays his Sho-Bud double ten though two Peavey Session 400's.

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