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May & June Short Takes

Various Artists "Friends of Fahey Tribute", 2006 What can you say about the late John Fahey? That he was as responsible as anyone in America for the surge of interest in acoustic guitar music? That he was a mentor and inspiration to countless hundreds of players? That the early recordings of Leo Kottke - which propelled him to guitar-god status - were equally the product of Kottke's chops and Fahey's genius and ability to cultivate musicians, and have them deliver the goods time and again? A quirky, intense man, Fahey left us in 2001, and this CD is a tribute produced by his student and friend Tinh in honor of the man who never seemed far from a guitar. Mark Lemhouse serves up some Delta blues in "How White's Restaurant Destroyed My Life," conjuring both Fahey and Bukka White, an early inspiration for Fahey (complete with sounds from the restaurant). George Winston uses piano and harmonica in two different recreations of Fahey's "Steamboat Gwine 'Round de Band". Joan Doan uses his harp guitar to remind us of John's famous version of "In Christ There is No East or West," by serenading the listener with "In John Fahey There is No East or West." All the players here - including Woody Mann, Paul Geremia, Terry Robb, Peter Lang, John Renbourn, and Stefan Grossman due justice to the musical legacy of a man who still lives through the music he gave life to. © Kirk Albrecht

Stephen Yerkey "metaneonatureboy", 2005 In describing Stephen Yerkey's "Metaneonatureboy," the word auteur comes to mind. From the wordplay of the title to the exquisitely posited vignettes presented with a slightly salacious point of view, this dude delivers. The slightly bent world of Tom Waits comes to mind-as set in San Francisco and environs. Yerkey eases you in to his iconography with the unreconstructed roadhouse feel of "Songs Put Things" before yanking you into the far stranger territory of "Dark and Bloody Ground." It's film noir for the ears. His voice may be an acquired taste, and there are no compromises in "Bloody Ground," but by the end of the disc you are bound to be initiated. Track 3, "Fall Out of Love," highlights Yerkey's eye for detail over the lovely wood/brass arrangements by Ben Goldberg. And where else do you find lyrics like "I'd rather witness a tragic hydraulic lift accident."? His evocative lyrics, "Her house is dark and quiet as an Arabian mosque"-("Alice MacAllister") shine darkly throughout. "Cadillacs of That Color" is an astounding Waitsian opus that clocks in at over seven minutes, incorporating Golden Gate Park's botanical gardens, a Cadillac preacher, and an inside-joke ending that can only truly be appreciated by an S.F. native. "My Baby Love the Western Violence" is possessed of a dark, dark, California moxie. "Mood Swing Era" is a moody clarinet. "Link Wray's Girlfriend" allows us to add "Vichy France" and "barcalounger" to the pop music lexicon. The second opus of this oeuvre, "Stinson Beach Road," which clocks in at 10 minutes, takes us right past my old nude beach up to Bolinas, home of some of the wildest chemists, shamans and poets you ever want to meet. Don't look for any road signs along the way, just buy it. © Steve Klingaman

Damond Moodie "Daydreamer", 2006 Someone needs to start a big record label and get Moodie's work to the masses 'cause baby, this is solid acoustic soul with a back beat that'll make every cell of your body wanna dance. There's no horn section or slick backing tracks, just his chunky rhythmic guitar and emotional vocals with a tight band, as if he and his buddies got together at a great party and laid down some tracks. From the joyful "Blessed," to the eerie "HalloAmericaWeen (Let's Roll)," he covers a lot of emotional ground. In "Misery" he wishes someone the best even though there seems to be no hope, the wistful strings making it even more moving. "Messed Up" is anchored in a solid gospel piano; it's an apology to a lover and damn... anyone who wouldn't take him back after that is heartless. If you love singer-songwriters like Tom Prasada-Rao or Tracy Chapman, heck, even if you don't, you'll love this disc. And if you're this generation's Berry Gordy, sign this guy up. © Jamie Anderson

Pedrick Hutson Guitar Duo "The Seas are Deep", 2006 For an instrument dominated by Southern European and South American music, the classical guitar has only dabbled in the distinctive Celtic sound. Most notably, David Russell recorded an entire disc of Celtic compositions in 1998. This 2006 release by the Pedrick-Hutson Guitar Duo seeks to expand the repertoire by focusing on the harp compositions of Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738). The duo explains that O'Carolan bridged the gap between traditional Irish folk music and Baroque Italian art music, eventually earning him the title of "National Composer of Ireland". The pieces are primarily driven by O'Carolan's captivating melodies which can be equally joyful as they can be haunting. Meanwhile, the duo's arrangements allow for active polyphony throughout the recording. Pedrick and Hutson must be commended for their effort in creating a diverse cross section of O'Carolan's oeuvre through a careful selection of his many works. While all guitarists will enjoy this disc, it will be most loved by those who reserve a special place in their hearts for Celtic music. © Timothy Smith

Bourgeois Gypsies, "Blue Morning", 2006 Arnold Mitchen and Kaisa MacDonald are the Bourgeois Gypsies, an acoustic duo from California. Mitchen (whose credits include Chris Whitley, Jeff Buckley, Seals & Croft) provides the heavy lifting as a guitarist/bassist and the two rely on unison vocals in their respective ranges for their signature sound. It's not a common trademark, it maybe brings an act like Timbuk3 to mind. Notable tracks include "Gypsy Girl" and "Sugarplum" to open the CD and "Wide Open Moments" to close the program. "Gypsy Girl" has MacDonald echoing Maria Muldaur over a nice acoustic guitar riff spiked by some Mark Knopfler-type tones on the electric. "Sugarplum" is a quasi-trad ditty of a sturdy Doobie Brothers "Black Water" vintage. Sunnygirl Yoko Takeda contributes some great harmonica to the tune. "Wide Open Moments" offers a simple, effective chorus with a good vocal blend with Mitchem's lead vocal creating some nice melancholic moments that ring true. "Blue Morning" features a very fine musical setting that adds up to a better song than the vocal allows. All in all, the music shines brighter than the vocals, but with a few more 3rds, 5ths, and the like thrown in, sparks may fly in the future. © Steve Klingaman

David Gillis "Wish Where You Are", 2005 Canadian singer-songwriter David Gillis plays 6-string guitar and composed most of the music on this instrumental CD. He presents a very pleasant and well-executed selection of solo guitar pieces and works for small ensembles centered around his guitar. Standouts include three solos: "Snow Day," featuring multiple voices in the guitar's bass and treble registers, "Katie's Corner," with shifting time signatures, and "Prairie Dog," which evokes the busy little mammal that is the tune's namesake. Other solo pieces include "Downtown" (yes, the song Petula Clark made famous in the 1960s), "Hyfrydol" and Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays' "James." One tune, "Mr. Skippy Pants," appears in both group and solo versions, thereby illustrating Gillis' arranging sensibilities. The disc's title tune and other group pieces are very listenable, typically featuring Gillis playing unison lines with another instrument, including harmonica and dobro, sometimes with the support of upright bass and percussion. Gillis has a broad, appealing musical vision and I hope to hear more from him soon. © Patrick Ragains

Marc Douglas Berardo "Harbor", 2005 His warm voice and thoughtful stories are the center of this contemporary folk album. Many of the arrangements are centered on his finger picked guitar, giving his ballads room to breathe. "Harbor" is an apt title for this collection of originals, with its seaside images and a common theme of searching for safety. "Shake Out the Dust" warns us that there are bigger things to worry about besides that long commute to work or the latest argument with your loved one. There's a nice guitar groove on "Working;" it's the sound of the road for this touring musician who plays over 150 nights a year. The title cut is a stand out with its beautiful arrangement of delicate guitar, sweet strings and french horn. © Jamie Anderson

Paul White "On the Detour", 2003 Paul White wraps his beautifully rough-hewn voice around some very nice jazz-inflected original acoustic gems on "On the Detour." There's a hint here of everything that was great about the 60s and 70s in these tunes, recalling The Moody Blues, Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton and Dire Straits, while at the same time retaining his own unique voice. A JT-ish instrumental ballad named "Little Wonder" is a restrained intro to the more rhythmic, even funky, tunes that follow. © Alan Fark

Sleepy River "The Funeral Birth of a Tree" 2005 If you like your despair lush and lovely, the aptly named Sleepy River (in reality 22 year old singer/songwriter Justin Kline), will give you all you will ever need. "The Funeral Birth of a Tree," is as relentlessly down, in tempo and lyrics, as its title. Kline emotes lines like "I'll stay in a dark coma of apathy" and "Life is a poison arrow in my chest," more often than not in front of insistent acoustic strumming in 3/4 time, But, with hints of harmony-based artists from Brian Wilson to Spanky and Our Gang, songs like "Dark Sounds" (with a passionately pretty melody on "We'll move away from our companion") and "Stay Afloat" (with its moving refrain of "I don't know much, but I know that I miss my friend") manage to stick with you. © David Kleiner

Scottish Guitar Quartet "Landmarks", 2005 Fusing classical, Celtic, and modern jazz, Ged Brockie, Malcolm MacFarlane, Kevin MacKenzie and Nigel Clark have created a dynamic and enchanting collection of original compositions for their latest release, "Landmarks". From the lilting, delicate "It's a Beautiful Thing" to the driving and slightly rambunctious "See You In Seattle", the four guitarist-composers of the Scottish Guitar Quartet revel in their unique genre melding style. While the strength of the writing and playing on "Landmarks" are both memorable and admirably minimalist four guitars, what may be most impressive is the seamless and tasteful use of technology to complement and push acoustic music. Rarely has guitar synthesizer been employed so tastefully. © Rick Gebhard

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

Pete Kronowitt - Elements
Leslie Clemmons - Waiting for My Conviction
Amy Obenski - Kite
Matthew Shaw - Covenience
Geoffrey Armes - Elemental Red
David Nefesh - Pureheart
Cosmic Starfish
Larkin McLean - X-Rated Musical
Wrinkle Neck Mules - Pull the Brakes
Fernando Perez - Music of the World in the Guitar of...
James Hollingsworth - Alive in 2005
Greg Stephens - Keep it Simple
Russ Rentler - Screcrow's Lament
Suze Spencer Marshall - Tall Boots
Mary Abraham - The First Five
Bill Madden - Gone
Diana Jones - My Remembrance of You
Jason Whitton - Thriftstore Cowboy
Freebo - Before the Separation

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