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May & June Short Takes

Victor Saumarez "Biding Time", 2002 This compendium of multi-tracked acoustic guitar instrumentals listens like a history of jazz. Though many of the song choices are known as guitar tunes (Bireli Lagrene's "Made in France", Martin Taylor's "Chez Fernand", Jobim's "How Insensitive"), others are fabulous acoustic guitar interpretations of jazz giants like Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane and Johnny Green. Saumarez artistically sandwiches these tracks between the most excellent opening and closing tracks "What's this Thing Called Love" by Cole Porter, and "Oye Como Va", a Tito Puente number popularized by Santana. ©Alan Fark

Erika Luckett "My Little Crime", Birdfish Records BFR7842, 2001 Smart and sassy, Erika Luckett's latest release distinguishes itself from the crowd of singer-songwriter disks with its jazz underpinnings. Luckett distinguishes herself with sensual lyrics ("...pull back from the abstract and feel the talk of skin on skin"), a sense of humor ("...a hundred bucks for a Jacuzzi room in a Motel 6"), self-assured vocals, and solid guitar work that helps this record swing. Check out the nylon-string playing on "Besame," the steel pans in "Postcard from Graceland," and the way "Room 213" makes you move. Perhaps "you can't keep the wind inside a box;" but you can find strength, grace, and rhythm inside "My Little Crime." © David Kleiner

Tinh "Acoustic Rain", East Wind Records TIRI-87, 2002 Any guitarist luckily enough to have produced an album by John Fahey ("I Remember Blind Joe Death") must have something musical to say, and on his first album since his 1986 debut, Tinh (pronounced "Dun") Mahoney returns with a concept album produced by George Winston. Primarily raised by his grandmother in a village outside of Saigon (and evacuated by helicopter three days before its fall), Tinh uses "Acoustic Rain" to explore many facets of his experience, such at the Tet offensive, returning vets, nighttime firefights, the Viet Nam War Memorial, and wounded hearts. With the exception of two nylon-string tunes ("Liam's Lullaby" being a standout), all are performed on steel string guitar. The album concludes with a trilogy of Fahey-inspired pieces: "I Remember John Fahey" (which Tinh co-wrote with and finished for Fahey) is a tune that will put a smile on every Fahey fan's face, followed by "Home/Auld Lang Syne". Finally, the album concludes with an acoustic answer to Jimi Hendrix's version of the "Star Spangled Banner". This is a classy production from sound quality to cover art, a dramatic photo of a war helmeted Tinh embracing his guitar. ©Patrick Grant

Chop Shop Project "Earth Music", 1998 I've never been so boondoggled to pigeonhole a style. The Chop Shop Project is something that seems like a hybrid of Steve Tibbetts, Al DiMeola and Frank Zappa. The driving hand drums and relentless repetitive intensity of rising and falling background arpeggiations make this music sound tribal. "Earth Music" is a unique musical vision... very original, very different and very good. ©Alan Fark

Martin Posen "Listening Hands", Barebones Music 0018, 2001 Following his 1999 debut "Triple Heater", Canadian guitarist (and National Flatpicking Championship finalist) Martin Posen returns with his sophomore outing "Listening Hands". As before, he explores many of the lesser-known altered guitar tunings (available at his website www.martinposen.com) while utilizing a variety of percussive techniques and harmonics. In the spectrum of acoustic steel-string instrumental guitar music running from John Fahey to Michael Hedges, Posen falls more toward the latter end of the spectrum while finding his own voice. "Django Townsend" sounds like Peter Townsend exploring jazz (as its name implies), while "Wind Flowers" offers a slower, beautiful fingerpicked arrangement. Posen's listening hands create lots of musical interest for feeling ears. ©Patrick Grant

Noah Zacharin "Crow Dark Wind", Soffwin Music SW601, 2002 Like Bruce Cockburn, Ry Cooder, and Bonnie Raitt, Noah Zacharin posses a virtuoso command of the guitar to complement his thoughtful lyrics and wistful melodies. Though a myriad of folk, acid-rock, jazz, blues, European, and classical influences coalesce on this collection, Zacharin's world-wise songwriting is the driving force behind Crow Dark Wind. Among the many highlights are "Sky," a haunting "Requiem for John Fahey" and the rambling Leonard Cohen-meets-Dylan-at-the-border "What She Don't Want." Ably accompanied by percussionist Geoff Bennett on just two cuts, Zacharin's deft use of multi-tracking and vocal harmonies proves that alot less adds up to alot more. ©Tom Semioli

Randomvariate "Compendium", Wrought Records, 2001 A scaled down version from a massive four disc set by singer songwriter guitarist Steve Henigan, Olio/Compendium is a project ten years in the making that details the artist's inner and outer psyche from age 16 to 26. Though the concept is somewhat pretentious, Henigan's artistry is akin to the Counting Crows, Hootie & The Blowfish, Dave Matthews, Third Eye Blind, and Toad The Wet Sprocket. Accompanied by top-notch sidemen, Henigan's deep baritone voice glides through earthy compositions based upon folk, jazz and roots-rock influences. Tracks such as "Did You Really Care" and "Here I Go Again" are ripe for modern rock radio playlists, however 58 songs might be pushing it a bit. ©Tom Semioli


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