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September/October 2017 Short Takes

Howard Emerson "The Wall Talks" 2017 Howard Emerson's latest CD The Wall Talks sets the mood from the starting gate as if the jockey was whipping the beast before the bell rang. "Rumble Strut" demonstrates his ability to immediately showcase what's to come with smooth southern blues grooves and licks neatly blended together by a player that shows fearless confidence. The album progresses in a very logical, yet unpredictable manner with traditional sounding solo works like "Bitter Suite: Oso Landslide" and "Phelp's Flats" mixed with beatnik sounding trio pieces such as Peggy Lee's "Fever" and ensemble pieces like "Water Off a Duck's Back"; a song which features his vocal talents and hints of Clapton influence. Emerson saves a little humorous surprise for the listener to finish the collection. A very nicely put together and entertaining album. © Mark Bayer

Raymond Gonzalez "Unknown Mariner" 2017 Musical renaissance man Raymond Gonzalez plays several instruments, arranges, composes, and produces. On Unknown Mariner, he presents fifteen of his own compositions for steel string guitar. The opener, "Cape Ann's Jig," melds a familiar-sounding Celtic theme with a rocking second section before he returns to the head and plays some unexpected lines, ranging from blues to nearly atonal. He keeps things grooving but isn't afraid to challenge his listeners. On the title tune Gonzalez plays the melody on the guitar's bass and middle strings, interspersing its phrases with beautiful, muted arpeggios. "The Night Owls (JR's Two-Tap)", is a snappy minor blues in an open C tuning that is bound to please a live audience. It's followed by the rubato "G9," which, along with the reflective "Red Sky at Night," is among my favorites. It's these and other slower pieces like "Water and Stone" and the closing "Gan y Mor" that exhibit Gonzalez's compositional skills and expressive playing to full advantage. Also from a guitarist's perspective, his use of contrapuntal voices while playing in over half a dozen different tunings is stunning. The audio quality is pristine and intimate. Anyone who enjoys the original solo guitar works of John Renbourn and Laurence Juber should thrill to hear Raymond Gonzalez. He's a master of his craft and worth following. © Patrick Ragains

Nick Dellar "Flying Fish" 2017 U.K. guitarist Nick Dellar's CD Flying Fish is aptly titled. What an odd thing that a fish can fly. It contradicts most of what we know about nature, physics etc. Dellar may not break the rules of physics or nature on his new CD but he certainly carves out a guitar style that is on the edge of many styles musically and in terms of technique. There is a sense hutzpah and identity present in these original tunes, compositionally and in performance. Similarly, a certain spontaneity arises from the occasional rough edge. From the opening somewhat discordant, yet intriguing "Monkey Bounce" to the alternately delicate and disarming, not to mention horrifyingly titled "Bring Me The Head Of Edmundo Ros" to the frenetic and bluesy "Holmes Chapel Flyer," Dellar's musical vision will re-charge your musical hunger. Flying Fish is simultaneously refreshing and haunting. Sadly, after writing this review I learned that Nick Dellar passed away on July 28th. © James Filkins

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