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November and December 2011 Short Takes

Rob Higginbotham "With Hands Raised to the Sky," 2011 . Higginbotham is a Nashville-based guitarist and composer, whose versatility is on display on this self-produced debut. Two highlights, "Solas" and "Caleb's Song" are essentially solo classical pieces, although the latter includes a subtly integrated second guitar. "With Hands Raised to the Sky", "Mountain of the Sky God", and "Flamingo" are vehicles for Higginbotham's impressive skills as an improviser. "Cicada Summer" shows his ability to compose using "found" sounds -- working with his young daughter, Higginbotham recorded cicadas, then overlaid guitars and viola, attempting to get inside the insects' "song." O'Carolan's "Hewlett", where the guitarist plays the melody and variations over his own rhythm track in a trance-like New Age setting, is the only non-original on the disc. With promotion and some luck, Rob Higginbotham's wide-ranging talents should gain a wider audience as a result of this effort. © Patrick Ragains

Rita Hosking "Burn," 2011 On "Burn," supple voiced Rita Hosking roams the range of acoustic music on the country-side. She uses a doublewide warble on the opener, "Something You Got," as it morphs from its Dylanesque intro into full out fiddle and steel. A joyous, straight-ahead love song, it contrasts thematically with a CD whose characters witness their worlds crashing and burning. The bartender in "Ballad for the Gulf of Mexico" dispenses a keg of high power-by-volume images before imagining serving "up a tall barrel of crude" to "them CEO's, CFO's and everyone who said 'we gotta keep the flow.'" It's the bitterest and most deserved musical curse since "Masters of War." And, as with other folkie tunes on the CD, Hosking reduces the vocal tremolo. She and the band build to a howl in "How Many Fires." The frontloaded CD's fine first eight tunes feature two very cool songs about the demolition derby, including the eminently coverable "Crash and Burn." With something incisive to say, a poet's way with words folks actually use, and an instrument that delivers the goods, Hosking has talent to burn. © David Kleiner

Tim Pacheco "Of Wordless Realms," 2011 If you want a CD of first-class guitar compositions, lush sound, and a feel-good vibe, you canít go wrong with Tim Pachecoís "Of Wordless Realms." The 11 tunes demonstrate that intangible quality of what makes music good. Pacheco never is rushed in delivering beautiful playing that suits each song. Maybe itís a testament to some of his seminal influences, but the opening "Faunís Dance" reminds listeners of Will Ackerman in the early Windham Hill days. Itís a short piece you wish would go longer (can we ever say anything better about a song?). Pacheco creatively utilizes some duets and ensembles to go along with his solo guitar pieces, allowing the other voices to shine while he takes a back seat. In a nod to one of his influences, Pacheco handles the challenging "Without You" by guitarist Michael Gulezian, with its dark tones underlying a sensitive melody. "Orisya" is a happy, lilting jaunt with marimba and percussion along for the friendly ride. The title cut "Of Wordless Realms" slowly sinks into your consciousness like the sun on a cool day. The disc ends with the winding "The Foundling" with harp and voice. Itís a close your eyes kind of tune that bathes your ears in sweet, delicious tones. Honestly, this is one of the best guitar CDís I have heard this year. © Kirk Albrecht

Danielle Miraglia "Box of Troubles," 2011 Sheís an up and coming blues woman who doesn't hide behind a huge band -- they're here but she is definitely front and center with her in-your-face attitude. Combine that with her hot acoustic slide guitar and a voice with a Janis Joplin edge and you've got some great tunes that even a hardcore Robert Johnson fan will love. Every song on this collection of original tunes is good but two stand out. One is "Stagger Lee," driven by a slide guitar and a dramatic story. The other, "See the Light," has a great harmonica punctuating the beat, a bluesy banjo and a foot-tapping sing along chorus where she sings "Iím all right if youíre all right." Now that weíre heard you, Danielle, we are. © Jamie Anderson

Adam Levin "Plays Morales-Caso," 2011 Adam Levinís most recent recording, "Fuego De La Luna," showcases the extraordinary compositions of Spanish composer Eduardo Morales-Caso. Levin is a consummate classical performer, educator, and musical emissary. He earned a Masters in Music from the New England Conservatory, as well as a Fulbright Scholarship and an Albert Schweitzer fellowship. Levinís innovative playing is the perfect vehicle for documenting Morales-Casoís adventurous music. The compositions are imaginative, passionate, and expansive. The album begins with the mesmerizing "Diabolical Rumours," which sets the stage for the recording. The piece is dramatic, vivacious, and sonorous, exploring the limitless harmonic intricacies of the instrument. The reflective "Samskara" features intimate embellishments followed by powerful symphonic overtures. The album concludes with the defiant "El Jinete Azul" finding the guitarist flanked by a very talented string quartet. "Fuego De La Luna" is an ambitious recording with bold, audacious compositions enthusiastically performed by Levin. Although at times challenging, the music herein is full of sonic rewards for adventurous listeners. © James Scott

Here's some other great music we received this month:

Woody Lissauer - Loveland
Marybeth D'Amico - The Light Inside
Giacomo Fiore - Colors

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