Gretchen Menn steps out on her own with her first solo album, and what an album it is! If you’re looking for traces of the AC/DShe and Zepparella covers she’s played in the past, forget it. If you’re looking for edgy, compelling, freshly minted instrumentals that take a musical journey like albums of old, you’ll find much to admire here. A gifted soloist with a style all her own, Gretchen possesses wonderful technique – the Beckian volume swells of “Déjà Vu,” the classically influenced, Buckethead-worthy lines of “Is It Not Strange,” and the Django-influenced, all-acoustic “Fast Crown” provide stellar examples. With Stu Hamm on bass and John Mader on drums, the ensemble arrangements “Captured Barricade” and “Struck Sleepless” will delight fans of Dixie Dregs-style fusion. And like Dregs leader Steve Morse, Gretchen’s strongest suit, for sure, is her compositional ability. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on “Walking Shadow,” the only track on which she does not play. This haunting, soundtrack-worthy composition for solo violin was expertly performed by Emily Palen using Menn’s notated score. Major skills, folks. I, for one, can hardly wait for the next album. Co-produced by Gretchen Menn and Jude Gold for Mach Zero Music, Hale Souls is available from www.gretchenmenn.com. Before you go, check out the video for “Oleo Strut,” from the album.