Meet the Writers

Kirk Albrecht was born in Pennsylavina, educated in New York and Chicago, lived in the Middle East, now full circle back in Pennsylvania. A life-long guitar player, the world opened up in 2 events: hearing Alex DeGrassi for the first time at a seafood restaurant in North Carolina in 1986 ("excuse me, who is that you're playing?"), and when Phil Keaggy released "Acoustic Sketches". I can be heard listening to most any jazz or guitar music any day, and the strains of Bill Monroe's high lonesome sound are never far away. A good meal would be a bowl of hummus with sweet mint tea and Farid Al-Atrash thrashing away on his oud. Married to the same fine lady for 24 years with 3 cool sons. They all think I'm nuts.

What's on Kirk's smartphone this month? The Boxcars, Sven-David Sandström - Nordic Mass, Brahms: The Cello Sonatas

Singer-songwriter-parking lot attendant Jamie Anderson writes about music when she isn’t busy doing her own. Besides Minor 7th, her work has appeared in Acoustic Guitar, Sing Out!, and more. You really don’t want to hand her keys to your Volvo (she’s legally blind in one eye) but her mama said she should have something to fall back on.

What's on Jamie's smartphone this month? Dolly Parton - Blue Smoke

Armed with Ukulele at age 4, Mark Bayer became a troubadour, earning treats from the neighbors for his performances. Not like Mozart, more like a wandering child-minstrel. Born into a musical family, he absorbed the natural talents of his surroundings and was given enough training in early years on classical guitar to understand fingerboard harmony, music theory and composition in order to progress toward a well rounded musical knowledge. "I was shocked at an early age to find that all families did not get together on Sundays and jam all day with their grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, etc." After studies with Earl Neiheisel and Jose Madrigal, Richard Pick was the major influence on his ideas about an approach toward composing classic guitar pieces. "I borrowed his style and then developed my own. In my studio I often stray from the guitar as the center of a composition, yet my heart is always driven back to it." Having toured and performed in venues from small clubs to baseball stadiums, he managed to sustain a philosophy that musical fulfillment overrides any commercial success. "Like Bach, I believe that we do this for the glory of our creator." Mark's CD "Horse Rescue Album" is available at CD Baby and all proceeds from CD sales go to that charity.

What's on Mark's smartphone this month? Philip Glass - Pruitt Igoe

Brian Clark is a science writer living in the wilds of eastern Washington State. A long time lover of music, his mother started him on the path when he was just a wee lad, wondering how she translated those fly specs into music on the piano. She taught him to read music, a gift that, all these decades later, keeps on giving. Playing primarily guitar, Brian still finds time to tinkle the ivories and keep his licorice-stick embouchure in shape.

What's on Brian's smartphone this month? Antoine Dufour - Back & Forth, Les Triaboliques - rivermudtwilight, Dr. Lonnie Smith - All In My Mind

Ever since he bought a bright blue Mosrite guitar as a pre-teen and learned the riffs to "Walk Don't Run," Alan Fark has been in love with the sound of guitar. Thankfully, his tastes in music matured a bit, later discovering and drawing influence from the music of Segovia, Phil Keaggy, Peter Green, Michael Hedges, Allan Holdsworth, Tommy Emmanuel, David Wilcox and Ralph Towner. There was a dark moment in time where his interest in guitar waned, but the internet (and specifically tablature via OLGA) brought him back into the light. Check out his one stab at tab -- JT's "Secret O' Life"... (google it!)

What's on Alan's smartphone this month? Quentin Angus - In Stride

A confirmed music junkie, James Filkins has been employed as educator at both the high school and college and secondary levels, writer, radio personality, music director, waiter, vacuum cleaner salesperson... He currently teaches language arts, video production an broadcasting at the high school level and the occasional composition and Shakespearian Lit. class at the college level. Occasionally he finds time to write and record a few fingerstyle tunes on his beloved McIlroy AJ25cx as well travel with the woman of his dreams (his wife of 30 years). It took more than a little gumption, but he finally released a CD of original tunes ("Borderline Normal") in 2007. Whether it be The Who, a Mozart Violin Concerto, Luther Allison Blues or Antoine Dufour burning up an acoustic guitar, his ears crave music 24/7 (well okay, Polka and RAPP are not in his listening fare, but ballets don’t scare him!!)

What's on James' smartphone this month? Tragically Hip- In Between Evolution, David Crosby - Sky Trails, Radney Foster - For You To See The Stars

Céline Keating is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She taught herself folk guitar as a teenager but switched to classical so she wouldn't have to sing. Céline has been reviewing music for Acoustic Guitar Magazine since 2005 and has also interviewed many artists, among them Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon, for Guitar World Acoustic. She has also published short fiction in literary magazines and has a novel forthcoming from Plain View Press.

What's on Celine's smartphone this month? Hurray for the Riff Raff - Small Town Heroes

David Kleiner is a singer/songwriter and freelance writer. "Sing Out," the venerable journal of folk music said David’s second album, "This Human Heart," "take(s) on passengers for the agelessly repeating journeys of bitterness, aching, loss, devotion, fulfillment, and passion that embrace the realities of loving. Kleiner’s vocals have a rough quality that is intense, and with love songs, it’s all about intensity and passion." An unbiased review in Minor7th proclaimed, "Words are magically transmuted into music" and concluded, surprisingly, that "David Kleiner truly is... human." As a freelance writer, David has ghosted an autobiography/instruction book for a professional gambler, abridged great works such as Gulliver’s Travels and The Odyssey, scripted and performed humorous commentaries for the Billy Sunshine Show on KRXA Radio out of Santa Cruz, and created educational content for the website of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Constantly on the look out for additional assignments, David links his e-mail address to his reviews in these pages. Please write. David’s stint with Minor7th has been longer than World War II, though there have been significantly fewer casualties.

What's on David's smartphone this month? Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker

Steve Klingaman is a writer and musician who works in the nonprofit sector in Minneapolis. Klingaman is currently working on a new CD that captures his solo set as it might sound as performed with a full band of best friends. After twenty years in clubs, Klingaman spends most of his time writing and recording in his private NoName Studio, where, working alone and with a small network of musicians from across North America, he records "more slowly than geology," His solo recording debut, the 2001 release Packwood addressed the disappearance of rural life from the American Midwest and received widespread recognition in folk circles. After living for 18 years in San Francisco and 10 in Minneapolis, he still considers himself to be an exiled San Franciscan. Steve was born and raised in the Chicago area where he picked up the guitar at age eleven. Steve's music career specializing in folk, rock and roots included bands and solo work in New Orleans, Montreal, San Diego and San Francisco. He's forgotten the name of his first band but can still accurately reproduce the Shadows of Knight arrangement of "Gloria." He has three releases currently available from Humuncules Music. Though somewhat of recluse in music biz terms, he can be found each July at five o'clock sharp in the beer tent at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. He has yet to write a hit single.

What's on Steve's smartphone this month? Lenne Klingaman - The Heart Is the Hunter, Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were

Fred Kraus' first love was The Beatles; his second was Bob Dylan. Mary Virginia Burns became his third love, but that's an entirely different story. His tastes have expanded exponentially since then, but a well-crafted piece of music performed with skill and passion never loses its appeal. He's been writing about music professionally for 25 years, and holds an MA in Journalism. Fred plays his favorite three chords (and not a whole lot else) on his 1966 Telecaster.

What's on Fred's smartphone this month? Calexico - Carried to Dust, Fleetwood Mac - Boston, Tom Waits - Blue Valentine

Scott Millsop is the voice on the Minor 7th Podcast. He graduated from Indiana University in a writing program and lived in Bloomington at the time the IU School of Music was launching its jazz program - which drew great musicians into the rolling hills of southern Indiana. The local clubs were small venues, but on any given night of the week almost anyone might be playing a one night stand. Scott always tried to grab a certain table at The Bluebird, about six feet from the stage. In a couple of great summers, he saw Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, David Holland, Oregon, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra among others. One night the Paul Winter Consort played the Bluebird and they brought so many instruments that they overflowed the stage and there was only enough space left in the club for an audience of about 25 people. Those lucky people sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by the band. How could a love of sound - and the outlook that came with it - not follow from that? Scott found a way to merge sound and writing by reading stories aloud, and he found a venue on the radio. In the mid-90's he wrote and produced a radio program of music and storytelling called "Roadside Attraction" that featured "Stories and Songs, Comedy and Cacophony, a giant ball of twine, a 2000 lb. Ground Hog and the only really tough minded thinking within 200 miles." The program aired on 50 public radio stations. One reviewer described it as "A Prairie Home Companion" on acid. Even though one of the running themes in the program was "anti-technology" and nobody in the company of writers, musicians or recordists could even turn on a computer, Roadside Attraction turned out to be the first streaming audio program on the internet. Scott remembers seeing a press release in USA Today about the first release of Real Audio, and saying "It's the mother lode." He tracked down the start-up software company the same day. They referred him to a start-up webcasting company called Audionet (which Mark Cuban later sold for billions), and a couple of weeks later Roadside was streaming on the web. It was just about the only thing streaming on the web at that time. How could a love of tech - and the outlook that came along - not follow from that? Scott works for an interactive media company now.

Chip O’Brien received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in jazz and contemporary music then migrated from the northeast to Nashville, Tennessee in the mid-nineties for the music. He has written about music for, CitySearch, Blues Revue Magazine, Minor 7th and other publications. His musical favorites include many of the jazz and blues greats such as Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, anyone with the last name King, and whoever else who can turn the guitar inside out and send him to alternate universes.

What's on Chip's smartphone this month? Alison Krauss And Union Station - Lonely Runs Both Ways, Charlie Christian - The Genius of the Electric Guitar, Booker T and the MGs - The Best of Booker T and the MGs

Patrick Ragains has reviewed for Minor 7th since 2003. He has also interviewed Laurence Juber and Martin Taylor for Minor 7th. Pat has played guitar as a hobby since the early 1970s and counts the Reverend Gary Davis, Lonnie Johnson, Jorma Kaukonen, John Renbourn, Marian McPartland and Martin Taylor among his influences. He is currently studying fingerstyle jazz and occasionally performs around Reno, Nevada.

What's on Pat's smartphone this month? Fats Waller - The Fats Waller Piano Solos: Turn on the Heat, Mississippi John Hurt, D.C. Blues - The Library of Congress Recordings.

James Scott is a world history teacher for a small independent school district in the Texas Hill country. He enjoys traveling and meeting people. While living in NYC he worked as a buyer for Tower records and studied privately with former ECM recording artist Bill Connors. Writing, for the time being, is James' hobby and a vehicle for staying connected with the music he loves.

What's on James' smartphone this month? Andy Timmons - Theme for a Perfect World

Tom Semioli's first guitar lesson occurred during the Summer of Love, taught to him by a groovy beatnick who resided in the upstairs apartment of his parents' two family house (along with a stunning blonde wife - refer to Michelle Phillips on the cover of "If You Can Believe Your Eyes & Ears" - Tom can still smell the incense) in suburban Long Island. In the late 70s when fusion was the rage, Tom switched to electric bass, studied music at the University of Miami and worked with such extraordinary artists as Jon Secada. During the 80s, before digital replaced analog recording, he never left Manhattan - playing gigs and appearing on numerous sessions for radio, theatre, and film. After a five year hiatus in San Francisco where Tom had opened rehearsal studio which serviced pros and weekend warriors with equal opportunity, he returned to New York City as a writer. Nowadays he leaves the long hours of practice, late night gigs, and hauling equipment in the snow, rain, and extreme heat to the next generation of musicians, who never fail to impress him with their energy and creativity.

What's on Tom's smartphone this month? Bonnie Raitt - Dig In Deep, Ian Hunter - Fingers Crossed, Jennifer Amlen - Stories To Tell

Timothy Smith has proven himself as one of Canada's most talented young guitarists. He has earned first prizes and awards in competitions across Ontario and Canada. In 1999 he was awarded the top prize at the Canadian Music Competition finals held in Edmonton, Alberta. Smith studied the classical guitar for 13 years with Dr. Alvin Tung. During this time Smith also attended the International School for the Musical Arts (ISMA) for six consecutive summers from 1993 to 1998 where he was given the opportunity to hone his skills as both a solo guitarist, and as a chamber music performer. In 2003 studied for one year with the renowned Canadian pedagogue Eli Kassner. In 2003 Smith graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor Degree in Classical Guitar Performance. He then continued his studies at McMaster University obtaining a Master's Degree in Music Criticism, an academic program focusing on music theory, critical thinking, and philosophy. His debut performance was at age 12 in his home city of Mississauga. Later, while studying at ISMA, he was given the honour of being selected to perform in many of the concerts held by the school. In the summer of 1999 Smith received his professional debut when he was invited as a special guest artist at two performances of The Muskoka Lakes Music Festival. Smith flourished at the opportunity, where he performed brilliantly as a soloist and in duet with his esteemed teacher. He subsequently received an invitation for a return engagement the following season as a result of his appearance. In 2002, the Toronto Guitar Society requested that Smith and his performance partner Drew Henderson perform a duet recital at the Heliconian Hall to celebrate society's 45th year. Aside from being an accomplished performer, Smith is also an experienced teacher. He began instructing privately at Lowe's School of Music in 1996, where he continued as a faculty member until 2005 when he became owner and operator of the school. Aside from the daily operation of the business, Smith continues to share his musical knowledge with both his staff and students. His growing reputation as a skilled pedagogue has made Smith a highly sought after adjudicator across Ontario. Smith's students currently compete and perform regularly, and several have been accepted into prestigious performance programs at various Universities, including the University of Toronto.

What's on Tim's smartphone this month? Ewan Dobson, Johannes Möller - Guitar Recital

Mark Sullivan is a musician/composer (librarian by profession) with a special interest in bebop-based jazz and experimental music. He also blogs about "mature readers" comic books, especially those published by DC Comics under their Vertigo imprint. He studied composition at the University of Michigan, as well as privately with George Cacioppo (a member of the ONCE group). His writing history includes book reviews for Library Journal and Salem Press, and he was a regular contributor of recording reviews to Option Magazine for over ten years. He has been editing and contributing to the website All About Jazz since 2014. His main instrument is guitar, but doubles on bass and drums.

What's on Mark's smartphone this month? Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis - The Stone House, Frank Kimbrough - Solstice, John Abercrombie Quartet - Up and Coming

Q & A: Minor 7th's Editor, Alan Fark
What is Minor 7th's mission?

I actually wrote a mission statement down on a piece of scrap paper a year or so ago: "Minor 7th's mission is to serve as an on-line review forum to enable independent or under-recognized acoustic guitarists to receive more wide-spread publicity, and to generate enough income to allow the project to be self-supporting."

Why did you start it?

The idea grew out of several concurrent events in my life at the time. I'm a guitarist who had participated on a friend's self-produced ambient CD in 1998, and helped him to promote it through on-line review sites, such as AmbiEntrance. At that time, producing one's own CD was still a bit of a novelty, but from that experience I could see that independent artists would now have several new resources available to them. They could now promote their own music, rather than go the traditional route of rolling the dice to be "discovered" by a label. It was an epiphany to me because I could see that business executives would no longer dictate the creative process, and the public would be the beneficiary of new music that was all over the map. I could already see it happening in 1999, and being an acoustic guitar music nut, began to sample the wares of on-line stores such as Acoustic Music Resource and independent acoustic artists who had an internet presence. At the time I had an hour commute to work and was voracious for new music to fill the time in the automobile, and had plenty of time to mentally "write" reviews in my head. Much of the music I heard was incredible, but unknown to popular audiences. I realized that the one cog in the wheel that was missing for independent and small label musicians who were producing their own product was promotion. Many of the on-line review websites were, I thought, too ambitious in covering all musical genres so that the information was difficult for readers to filter. I had admired Acoustic Guitar Magazine's willingness to embrace an eclectic mix of genres while keeping a narrow focus, and felt that a similar approach on-line would keep readers similarly engaged. Unlike Acoustic Guitar, though, I wanted to focus on the music rather than the gear. Also unlike AG, I realized that the ability to link to artist sites and music files would make Minor 7th much more interactive than any print publication could be. An outgrowth of that realization was the "free CD giveaway" concept, where several of the best CDs reviewed are given away to readers. Artists and small labels proved to be very receptive to the idea of donating an extra CD or two for these giveaways because it would guarantee top review placement. When return readers began to trust Minor 7th as a credible site that would not deluge them with spam for registering their e-mail address, they were willing to part with their e-mail address for a chance to win a contest so that we could grow a mailing list.

How long has the website been going, and doing?

The first issue was uploaded in late 1999, and has been published bimonthly ever since. Compared to many music websites, our number of visits is probably small, but our readership is very fanatical about our content. They tend not to be casual visitors, but readers who trust Minor 7th's opinions to guide their purchases.

Your history? Do you have a journalism background? Are you a musician?

I have no journalism background, but many of our writers do. I hope that my passion for both writing and music overcomes that lack of formal credentials. We have 10+ contributing writers, most of whom make a portion of their living by writing professionally, and with every issue I'm astounded by what they write. I have played guitar for 30 years, and especially enjoy jazz and blues, but I've dabbled in classical, Brasilian, rock, pop, folk, fingerstyle, and even experimental ambient.

What's the story behind the name Minor 7th (it's not really a folky chord!)

Part of the decision behind the name choice was guided by the domains which were available! My first choice was "Guitar Picks", but that domain had been registered. I settled on Minor 7th because that chord really seems to embody the music I prefer -- jazz and fingerstyle. It surely does not bring to mind traditional folk, but many of today's cutting-edge singer-songwriters who might otherwise fall into the category of "folk", such as Willy Porter, Peter Mulvey, David Wilcox, Jonatha Brooke and Ani DiFranco really make their sound so much more interesting by using unusual voicings and 7th chords.

Are you getting label support (free discs for contests?)

Yes! The labels that have been very supportive include Acoustic Music Resource (Solid Air Records), Signature Sounds, Sugar Hill Records, GSP Guitar, GHA Records, Vanguard Records, CandyRat Records, Compass Records, EarthBeat! Records, TelArc, Dreyfus Jazz, RykoDisc and Yellow Dog Records. Each of these labels seems to have the same mission as Minor 7th - promoting quality acoustic guitar music which is a bit out of the mainstream. They have been incredibly generous in their support of our "free CD giveaway" program and supplying promo CDs, even if we may not choose to review a CD which they've sent. The worst part of my job is turning down submissions, I hate to do it. However, since we do pay our writers, have production costs and receive an overwhelming number of submissions, I'm forced to make some tough decisions and turn away some pretty good music.

What about finances?

This is the only part of the mission statement in which we're failing... Minor 7th is not financially self-supporting at this point, although we keep moving closer. I'm definitely opposed to charging artists for a review as it removes all objectivity from the reviewers. I'm also opposed to charging readers a subscription fee since the beauty of the net is access and inclusion. So, we're left with banners and affiliate programs, which seem not to kick in significant dollars until a website comes to critical mass in readership. We're not to critical mass. And yet there are many non-monetary rewards, or else I would have stopped long ago.

How can people support the website?

Amazon is our main affiliate program. Whenever a reader clicks through an Amazon link at Minor 7th and then makes a purchase, Minor 7th makes a commission of anywhere between 5% to 7.5%, which is not passed on to the buyer. This is for any purchase within the same browser session, not necessarily a music purchase or any featured item at Minor 7th.

Can you tell me about some positive stories, comments from artists or their management or readers?

The biggest reward is being exposed to fantastic music I would have never otherwise heard. The other reward is meeting the artists. I've had the opportunity to interview Tommy Emmanuel and Peter Mayer, and other Minor 7th writers have interviewed Martin Taylor, Al Petteway and Amy White, Peter Mulvey, Ellis Paul, Laurence Juber and others (see the "Archives" section of Minor 7th for those interviews.) There have been a couple of chance meetings. One of our earliest CD giveaways was Todd Hallawell's fingerstyle CD "Before My Time", given to a guy who I recall lived in the Carolinas. Todd Hallawell lives in the Southwest, and is not exactly a household name. These two met fortuitously at a guitar festival in the Midwest and our winner got an autograph on his free CD, miles from home, when he recognized Todd from the cover. Hallawell e-mailed me about this unusual karmic experience later and it was then that I realized that Minor 7th really was making a small difference in the world. I similarly met David Cullen at a Ralph Towner concert when I recognized him from the cover of Equilibré, his collaboration with Michael Manring, which I had reviewed months earlier.

The other positive feedback that keeps me going is reader comments. Here are some comments we've received just in the past five days after uploading our newest issue:

You have impeccable taste!!! Thanks for the great web site, you've turned me on to some new artists.

The site is great! Keep it up.

Not sure if you could improve this great site.

I wish it came out more often because I've used it to purchase several CD's and music and correspond with the indies. I hope that the small labels realize how valuable a site like this is to them.

Thanks for the reviews. They always bring a few new artists to my attention. I'd offer some recommendations, but you usually hear them way before I do.

Keep up the great work, we appreciate it.

I appreciate the quality of your reviews

A friend told me of your site. Really great site!

awesome .. u guys don't need improvements!!!!!!

I also rely heavily on our readers to give us suggestions about music to review. Our readers are very sophisticated in their tastes and attuned to who is making cutting-edge music at the moment.

What else should we know about Minor 7th?

The most common suggestion for improvement we get is graphic design. Minor 7th's appearance is admittedly sparse. But the site is really about content, not flash. The code is written in html, not a WYSIWYG editor. I really think that this allows the pages to load more quickly for folks with a dial-up connection, although this situation will obviously change in the future as more and more people have access to faster connections. At some point, the design will probably be updated, but for now I kind of like the retro look of the "early days" of the internet.

Home | Short Takes | Facebook | Podcast | Archives | Submissions | Free CD Giveaway | Subscribe

Acoustic Music Resource

Laurence Juber, Doug Smith, Al Petteway, Phil Keaggy (and many more!) at Acoustic Music Resource