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September & October Short Takes

Jeff Troxel "November Sidewalk", 2004 Jeff Troxel plays guitar with a warm virtuosity that shows no trace of a virtuoso's self-consciousness. But guitar pickers will perk up when they hear this, and not just because Troxel is a 2003 National Guitar Flatpicking Champion. Why? In the rich blend of acoustic folk-style guitar, sly overtones of Pat Metheny and other interlopers abound. Troxel's singing voice is clear and rather charming, delivering great results on tracks like "New Destination". His topics reveal big-winter Wyoming roots in "Time for Moving On" and "Joseph". Troxel's instrumental compositions stretch slightly beyond guitar player melodies on the title cut, "November Sidewalk", with its haunting jazz inflections. And the record is superbly recorded. Bottom line, I can picture myself at a festival in shorts and sandals on an 80 degree day tapping my foot and digging this guy. Book him! © Steve Klingaman

Damir Halilic "Infinity", 2004 Croatia's Damir Halilic (Hal) is one powerful steel-string fingerstyle guitarist. "Infinity" features Hal's well-structured solo guitar compositions, showing influences of Leo Kottke, Duck Baker and Tommy Emmanuel, primarily in his rhythmic intensity. His picking is fast, assertive and exceptionally clean. Hal's solos hold up to repeated listening, the best among them including "Cartoon Rag", "Tender Wagon Song" and "12-String Special", a blues that begins with echoes of Leadbelly and leaps into aural outer space with insistent riffing in the middle and upper registers. The duo and ensemble pieces are tight and often recall European rock of the 1970s and 80s. These selections add variety to the CD, but detract somewhat from Hal's guitar showcases. In fact, these pieces make "Infinity" sound more like an anthology more than a cohesive, well-integrated work. However, that is no reason to ignore Hal - a supremely creative and gifted player whose talent warrants an international audience. © Patrick Ragains

Jook Bourke "My Mojo's Just Too Weak" 2004 "My Mojoís Just Too Weak", clearly reflects the magic behind Jook Bourkeís lyrics as a singer-songwriter and his strength as an acoustic blues guitarist and harp player. Bourke blends crisp textures and rich harmonies to this unique style of acoustic blues. He strays from the standard 12 bar format, while maintaining vital blues elements like gospel, rock and country. "My Mojoís Just Too Weak" contains eleven tracks of storytelling acoustic blues, focused on the humorous and ironic side of living and loving. Some fine examples are, "That Was It?", "I Must Be Gone", and "Stuck Being Me". This new release is an outstanding collection of original blues, like a combination of Keb' Mo and Little Feat, Bourkeís CD is absolutely infectious. © Pamela Dow

Misty River "Willow", 2004 The Misty River Band is a four-woman ensemble from Vancouver, Washington. With four-part harmony and variety of acoustic arrangements, they pack a lot into "Willow": terrific covers (a lovely opener, Kate Wolf's "Green Eyes"; a reverential cover of Dave Carter's "When I Go"; and an exquisite take on Paul Simon's "Kathy's Song"); an Š capella number; old-timey chestnuts ("The Cuckoo," "Shady Grove"); and a smattering of originals. Within that variety, all fourteen songs carry a consistent sound that is pure, unabashedly sentimental, and very pretty. Very pretty. © David Kleiner

JoŽl Fafard "Rocking Horse", 2003 Go out and find this CD if you want some great fingerstyle guitar playing. Don't buy it if you don't like creative music, a convergence of styles and textures, and atmospheric string accompaniment. The disk is not merely a showcase for Fafard's far-reaching finger picking, but also allows his bandmates - Richard Moody on violin & viola, and Gilles Fournier on double bass - plenty of room to make their own musical statements. They weave these melodies seamlessly. The bluesy "Fire Breathing Trout" opens up the disk with some tasty slide playing accented by Moody's clean violin work, while slide pops up on other tunes like "Sweet Mosquito Buzz," and "Unless It's Not,." Fafard slows it down for the lovely "The Last Waltz of John Kordic," an elegiac statement with Celtic stylings. This Canadian fingerstyler has been listening to Chet and other thumb pickers south of the border, showing off his chops on "Blue Gramma," "The Big Thaw" paints a picture of melting snow and ice, and growing spring sunshine. And the CD even has 5 bonus tracks if you just hang on through some silent space. JoŽl Fafard is a talented guitarist by any measure, and "Rocking Horse" is a fine recording to let those of us outside of Canada know it. © Kirk Albrecht

Rosette Guitar Duo, 2003 For typical classical guitarists, deeply entrenched in their sense of tradition, it would be a severe catachresis classifying the music of the Rosette Guitar as classical guitar music. However, in a time where cross-disciplinary composers such as Dominic Frasca and Roland Dyens are finding a voice, there is no doubt that this disc will also reach a large audience. This CD is the type that must be listened to from beginning to end; where the music within guides the listener on a deliberate journey. The music is often peaceful, but also at times jubilant and at other times pensive. I am certain that the person who would best appreciate this recording is one who seeks the timbre of nylon acoustic guitars, yet is looking for an alternative to the standard repertoire currently available. © Timothy Smith

John Hasbrouck "Some These Days", 2004 John Hasbrouck is welcome in my home anytime. His comfortable style and fascinating musings on fingerstyle and bottleneck guitar make for fine, thoughtful company. His nicely varied, seventeen track collection offers a virtual field trip into the past world of American roots music. Hasbrouck absorbs the genre like a 55-gallon drum catching the rain. He then breathes new life into some traditional tunes such as "False Hearted Loverís Blues" and gems like A.P Carterís "Ainít Gonna Work Tomorrow". While he remains true to the spirit of the originals, Habrouck injects his own indomitable spirit as well, to good ends. Heís at his best with his own compositions, which, like "To My Amazement, Still" and "Grannyís Homemade Horseradish" are played from the heart. His next-door-neighbor voice lends a homemade-biscuit authenticity. Hasbrouckís liner notes reveal a gentle humor and fascination with life, history and family. Born in Chicago, heís a visual artist as well. And the manís got a guitar collection to die for. © Fred Kraus

Lemon "Weight of the World", 2004 There seems to be a common cultural bias that white guys just can't sing R&B. As evidence to the contrary, just look to Phil Collins, Paul Carrack (Mike & the Mechanics) and David Pack (Ambrosia). Lemon represents the collaborative creative talents of singer Roger Smith and guitarist Thor Madsen, and Roger Smith's balmy and oh-so-smooth vocals again debunk the myth that you don't have to be black to summon up one incredibly soulful voice from deep inside. Madsen has done something equally interesting - he's placed acoustic guitar in a syncopated R&B context where one doesn't usually hear this instrument - check out "Weight of the World" and "Daydreams". © Alan Fark

Barbara Martin & Mac Walter "Touch the Sky", 2004 Mac Walter's solidly competent acoustic jazz/blues guitar work and Barbara Martin's vocal evoke memories of the innovative early recordings of Tuck and Patti. Martin contributes several compostions to the effort, most notably the bluesy "Big Bad Wolf", "Existential Blues", and "Funk Jungle" where her vocal sits most comfortably. The duo's versions of such standards as "Them There Eyes", the Irving Berlin classic "Blue skies", and an instrumental arrangement of "There Will Never Be Another You" are also solid and merit a listen. What stands out most on this album, however, is Walter's facile and easy-going fretwork. © Chip O'Brien

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