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January & February 2016 Short Takes

Darrin Kobetich "Free" 2015 Darrin Kobetich is a Fort Worth, Texas, based guitarist who aptly calls his music "ambient delta raga thrash grass." His album Free truly embodies the above classification containing an eclectic assortment of musical monographs showcasing imaginative compositions graced by virtuosic performances. Growing up in Long Island exposed Kobetich to a variety of ethnic music that he soon augmented with a healthy dose of heavy metal. A recent live show in the Texas Hill Country found the guitarist performing a faithful reading of Jimmy Page’s ephemeral "Bron – Ur – Aur". Kobetich’s current release opens with "Once In The Blue Moon" a Lydian tinged anthem that progresses into catchy bluegrass inspired passages. Echoes of the late virtuoso Michael Hedges can be heard on "Here And Now," showcasing dramatic percussive interludes and brilliantly executed two handed tapping excursions. While "As She Builds Her Nest" has a strong Middle Eastern vibe and features some intricate single note improvisations. From the masterful slide of "Grab Yer Lunch Pail" to the sophisticated fingerstyle sequences of "Morning Coffee" one can hear the profound influence of guitar legend Leo Kottke. Darrin Kobetich is a masterful player and deserves a much wider recognition than the regional success he currently enjoys. Free is just the musical offering that should expose this artist to a broader audience. The recording is an alluring and assessable collection of original acoustic instrumentals and is highly recommended for all listeners of contemporary music. © James Scott

Andy Hackbarth "Panorama Motel" 2015 At just under 24 minutes, this seven-song EP covers a lot of ground. Hackbarth is an inventive writer and gifted singer with an expressive low-tenor range who knows his way around the acoustic guitar. The opener, "Mountains," is catchy, up-up-beat, and accompanies the video on his website -- some might think of it as the single. My pick would be the title cut, "Panorama Motel, which excels in its emotional depth and arrangement, and features a hard-driving chorus that faintly echoes Jakob Dylan's "One Headlight," and sports a driving electric guitar solo. "What I'm Doing Here" finds Hackbarth mining the bottom of his range in a wistful minor-tinged alt-country meditation on once and future love: "…and it's like I never left / a trace of wine still on your breath / sweet and bitter on my mouth / like these memories of us…" The chorus to the closer, "Oceans," could have been an overdub acapella or even a boy-band vocal arrangement -- no snarkiness here, just big musicality and multiple vocal personalities. The acoustic pop production values are organic and solid throughout. The album's brevity magnifies its charms and leaves you wanting more. Luckily, Hackbarth has already amassed an impressive discography. I recommend you check it out. © Steve Klingaman

Glenn Roth "Welcome Home" 2015 It's cold outside (somewhere!). In the long winter nights, we need something to warm us. A cup of tea, a warm fire, and some fine guitar music with sweet melodies. Glenn Roth's new acoustic steel string CD, Welcome Home, fits the bill quite nicely, thank you. Roth creates fine acoustic textures, using the range of bass, mid, and treble sonority to provide a true fingerstyle guitar experience. This is not "New Age" guitar, but tunes crafted on guitar for guitar played by a guitarist who knows his craft. The 12 songs reveal a fine fingerpicker. "Mountain Theme" is a great start to the disc, with a strong melody line throughout. Harmonics set the ethereal tone for "Another Dimension," then Roth gradually and gracefully develops the musical flow. "Welcome Home" feels like a nice hug at the end of a long day. "Saalbach 92" is a gentle meditation, while "Dancing With Grace" feels like a steel string waltz. To close out the CD, Roth tries his hand at a solo gutiar version of Queen's quixotic hit "Bohemian Rhapsody." He plays it slow to start, but allows the feeling to build throughout, honoring the spirit of the original. More than any other single piece on the disc, this song highlights the full range of Roth's abilities, as both a player and arranger. Overall this is a fine CD of solo acoustic guitar music that I would be happy to buy. © Kirk Albrecht

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