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January and February 2012 Short Takes

Richard Gilewitz "Tasmania Live," 2011 The irreverent Richard Gilewitz has brought smiles to the faces of his fans again with the release of "Tasmania Live," recorded in that land of the "devil" somewhere in the ocean south of Australia. Listeners will quickly hear the stylings and songs of two of Gilewitz’s mentors – John Fahey and Leo Kottke. Fahey came to the island 30 years ago, and Gilewitz pays old John a compliment by playing no less than 3 Fahey songs on the CD. Gilewitz is a true master of fingerstyle guitar, and can play about anything possible on six or twelve strings. The bulk of the material from these two concerts is blues, ragtime, and folk. Mixed between the songs is the natural patter and humor his audiences have come to expect from a Richard Gilewitz show. He plays with grace and power on Jorma Kaukonen’s "Embryonic Journey" (sounding a lot like Leo Kottke), while opening the CD with a rollicking version of his own song "Wazamataz." When he’s not rolling, Gilewitz slows it down with a lush jazzy version of the Howard Arlen classic "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." You can’t hear anything but the guitar, all ears straining to catch each phrase, even as he seamlessly segues into Joni Mitchell’s "Both Sides Now." Really lovely playing. He covers the Beatles’ "When I’m Sixty-Four" with the cheek it deserves. Gilewitz and his co-producer Tim May end the disc with Kottke’s "Jack Fig" – a fine way to go out. Gilewitz is at the top of his game, and the audiences who heard him in Tasmania had a treat. © Kirk Albrecht

Damond Moodie "Wrestling With Giants," 2011 I thought of Hendrix as I listened to "Wrestling with Giants." Not simply because of the "Voodoo Chile" riff that opens "My Reflection." Not the "Crosstown Traffic" ooh-oohs in "the Window." Not Moodie's only cover, "All Along the Watchtower," a gutsy inclusion that showcases his nimble fingers and percussive playing (and don't miss the falsetto "howl"). The playing is fine throughout but there's nothing particularly flashy here. Moodie's acoustic is at the center of the spare arrangements, and he ably fills the space with variety and terrific rhythmic drive (see "Possibilities Multiply"), sometimes catching a quick riff in the bass moving to the next chord ("Blood Orange Sky"). You can hear a little Jimi in the vocal delivery, too. However, it's Moodie's spiritual reflections, especially in "My Reflection" and "Blessed," that sealed the deal, even if the message gets heavy at times. The album title (from "For You… Anything") may have many meanings, but I believe Hendrix is one of the giants Moodie wrestles with. It takes courage just to get in that ring. © David Kleiner

Duo Amaral "Súplica," 2011 "Súplica" is a sublime album of classical music for two guitars by Duo Amaral, the husband and wife team of Jorge Amaral and Mia Pomerantz-Amaral. This first release by the duo, which formed in 2008, opens with two breathtaking sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (transcribed from solo keyboard), and then moves to "l'Encouragement Op. 34" by Fernando Sor (known for the technical difficulty of his music), with its many brilliant, crisp passages. The heart of the CD is a world premier recording of "Saggio" by Victor Manuel Amaral Ramirez, the father of Jorge Amaral, a teacher and musician who studied Gregorian chant and was a pioneer of classical music in Mexico. Transcribed for two guitars, the piece opens with "Bagatela," with the two guitars giving ferocious chase, followed by the atmospheric and meltingly lovely "Súplica" (meaning "prayer" or "entreaty"), and culminating in fast-paced "Fantasia," complex and riveting. The CD finishes with "Tres Danzas del Ballet Estancia" by Alberto Ginaster (1916-1983), which incorporates Argentinean folk elements, and the dramatic Spanish-flavored "Tonadilla" by Joaquin Rodrigo (1901-1999). Overall, the clarity and contrasting tones of the two guitars -- one bright, the other warmer -- are striking; the musicians perform with mastery, poetic intensity, and power. © Céline Keating

Kathy Barwick "In My Life," 2011 I want to be Kathy Barwick but I’ll have to settle for being an average player in an average bluegrass band. Kathy is wonderful in that style as well as Irish and folk and not just on one instrument. Kathy burns it up on Dobro and acoustic guitar; she’s no slouch on banjo, mandolin or bass either. Add some great musicians like Roland White on additional mandolin and Samantha Olson on fiddle and harmony vocals and you’ve got a versatile recording that’s completely captivating. The album kicks off with "Nashville Blues," a smooth-as-silk flatpicking piece. On "Josefin’s Waltz" she excels on the Dobro and acoustic guitar. "Tell Me Why" is straight ahead bluegrass. She switches to Irish in "Poll Ha’ Penny" and includes the talented Bo Bowen on whistles. "My Native Home" is a mournful Maybelle Carter tune. She moves to the banjo, playing some mighty fine bluegrass style for "Sadie at the Backdoor/Kickin’ Up the Devil on a Holiday." "Boys of Ballisodare/Star Above the Garter" are two well-played traditional Irish tunes. Mike Justis takes the lead vocal on one of his originals, "On the Modoc Line"; Barwick adds thoughtful touches of Dobro. "Red Haired Boy" is a standout. She takes this tune heard at many a bluegrass jam and adds an Irish touch, playing it solo on acoustic guitar. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. "Florida Blues" is a great up tempo bluegrass number. Closing cut is a solo Dobro version of the Beatles "In My Life." She slows it down, adding an emotional element that’ll make you want to sink into a comfortable chair and hit repeat a few dozen times. I love this album. You will too. © Jamie Anderson

Louis Falligant "Into the Gray," 2011 All the songs sound the same. But, when you're going for a mystical, atmospheric sound, that's a good thing! There are no guitar feats of derring-do on Louis Falligant's "Into the Gray," but there is an ethereal vibe that many guitarists aim for, never striking the metaphysical mark as Falligant has successfully done here. "Into the Gray" seems an apt title -- Falligant has found the gray notes defining a meditative "middle" between pretentious flash and minimalism. Spin this subtlely superb disc to mute the chaos of our modern life. © Alan Fark

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

The Irwell Street String Band - 11:60 PM
Craig Bickhardt - Live at Sellersville Theater
Dormlife - Mustard is the New Ketchup
Matteo Crugnola - Espiro
Blue O'Connell - Choose the Sky
Ryan Fitzsimmons - Cold Sky
Kalibe - La Danse D'Harmattan
Bev Barnett & Greg Newlon - Love Can Change the World
Dustin Overbeek - As Is




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