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September/October 2016 Short Takes

Skanson & Hansen "Two Guitars in Studio Two" 2016 Colorado guitarists Darren Curtis Skanson and Gregg Hansen went to Abbey Road/EMI Studios to produce a remarkable reimagining of some of the Beatles most popular songs. They play radically with rhythm, song form, harmony and melody, yet the tunes are always recognizable - indeed, the group's music is so ingrained in our culture that it's hard to imagine how they wouldn't be. There are many surprises in store. First, "Blackbird," becomes a vehicle for lyrical, melodic soloing. Another favorite is "Yellow Submarine," which begins in rubato and moves into a carousel-type rhythm. "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "Here, There and Everywhere" are recast in waltz time and played as a medley. Other arrangements are less successful, as "Michelle" seems grandiose rather than pretty, and another medley, "Help/A Hard Day's Night," sports rhythm and key changes that sound forced. Overall, I found their efforts result in great listening, and the tonal quality of both players exceptional. Beyond its listenability, this album provides inspiration for guitarists to take risks in approaching familiar material. © Patrick Ragains

Carbe & Durand "A Bridge Between" 2016 With resumes that include writing for numerous films and TV shows as well as founding the instrumental world fusion band Incendio, Liza Carbe and J.P. Durand have something of a Midas touch when it comes to the fretboard. Their new CD, A Bridge Between, is no exception. In an effort to record some of the pieces that make their live shows so breathtaking, Care & Durand present two original composition and an impressive variety covers ranging from Mason Williams' "Classical Gas" to Ozzy Osborne's' "Crazy Train." The overall focus is sonic pleasure, but the skill and artistry of these guitarists simply oozes through each performance. Whether it is the brilliant arrangement of Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely, the up-tempo version of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman", the Flamenco infused Rolling Stone Classic "Paint it Black" or rollicking inviting title track, it is understood that these Carbe and Durand have a chemistry and musical verve that creates an exquisite auditory experience. © James Filkins

Mark Mandeville & Raianne Richards "Grain by Grain" 2016 To talk about "Grain by Grain," you have to start with the powerhouse vocals of Raianne Richards. Unfortunately, she only sings lead on one track, her only original included in the set, "Don't Ever Stop Believing." Elsewhere she harmonizes, softening the rough edges in Mandeville's Steve Goodman reminiscent voice. Listen to "If Someone Will Come, I'll Go" for a good example of the blend of their voices. The arrangements have no fear of trying to sound pretty, so don't be surprised to hear Richards' clarinet on tracks like "Grain by Grain" or "Worn Down," with a lovely, weary solo. The songs are consistently downtempo and message heavy, eschewing the story telling and concrete details one expects in Americana or country tunes, the genres this CD flirts with. Readers of Minor7th will appreciate the acoustic palette of this record. The instrumental support is not flashy and hardly fills the sonic space, focusing the listener on the vocals. Richards' clarinet appears again on the closer, "Across the Morning," dueting nicely with simple picking on nylon string guitar on what is perhaps the album's best track. © David Kleiner

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