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May & June 2012 Short Takes

Terry Radigan "The Breakdown of a Breakup," 2011 The end of a relationship makes for great art - think Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks," Everything But The Girl - "Amplified Heart," and Elliot Smith's "XO." Enter Terry Radigan, an accomplished singer, composer (Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, among others) who, by some strange simple twist of fate, has not been granted the commercial success afforded far lesser talents (just pick up the latest copy of Entertainment Weekly's music issue…go figure). Regardless of the shallow musical times we live in, if you seek out artists of substance, make sure Radigan is on your shopping list (especially her self-titled Vanguard debut). Akin to the latter day work of Daniel Lanois and post-Band Robbie Robertson, rootsy Radigan and her able crew opt for sparse, atmospheric arrangements which afford her seductive melodies lots of space to breathe - especially on such stellar cuts as "Not Giving Up on Love" (abetted nicely by Gerard Menke's cinematic steel guitar). Few artists can bare their souls with so many catchy hooks and witty lyrics - as evidenced in "I Don't Wanna Feel Like That" and the quirky, campy jug-band romp "Mistake." Much like the above reference artists, Radigan waxes timeless records - which is why most of us fell in love with music to begin with! © Tom Semioli

Philip Hemmo "The 20th Century Guitar," 2012 In his first CD "Romantic Works for Classical Guitar" (2010) Philip Hemmo focused on some of the most important works from 19th century and early 20th centuries. In his second disc "The 20th Century Guitar", he has turned his attention to several of the most notable composers of the modern era. He again brings his experience as a performer, teacher, and scholar to his interpretations of the works. His performance practice has changed significantly from his earlier disc, in which he deliberately took 'Romantic' liberties with phrasing and rhythm. This disc on the other hand is heavily entrenched in the modern style, emphasizing detailed and accurate delivery of every instruction provided by the composers. As with his last recording, the music benefits greatly from his superb attention to tone production and technique. For any listener interested in exploring a tasteful cross-section of the guitar repertoire throughout the past two hundred years, I recommend picking up both of Philip Hemmo's CDs. © Timothy Smith

Andrew Deevey "While My (Acoustic) Guitar Gently Weeps," 2011 It's risky business to tackle the Beatles, but Andrew Deevey, who also hails from Liverpool, takes an assured, direct approach in this stripped down, unembellished tribute to 14 of the group's best-loved songs. Over the course of his debut collection, Deevey uses a varied toolkit of acoustic fingerstyle techniques. He leads with a forceful rendition of "Eleanor Rigby," using a nicely contrasting bass line, thorny chords, and punchy melody lines. "Hey Jude" relies on an interplay between melody line and alternating bass line, while "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," employs a jangly repeated chord for emphasis. All the arrangements are pleasingly complex, although they suffer from a bit of sameness in dynamics and tempo. The regular tempo works well with the peppy "When I'm Sixty Four" and "Norwegian Wood," with its spiky cluster of chords, but for some, like "Michelle," the sturdy meter seems a bit forced and it also robs some of the mystery from "Nowhere Man." Still, Deevey is a talented arranger and impressive player who clearly has deep regard for the Beatles' catalogue, as his gentle "Yesterday," which closes the CD, amply shows. © Céline Keating

Russell Howard "City Heart," 2011 At Minor7th, worthy acoustic guitar - not a pop staple - is what we require. "City Heart," though a pop record with more hooks than Uncle Fred's fishing vest, qualifies. Russell Howard's guitar appears early in - and propels - every cut. Typical is the opener, "Under the Weight," with Howard's syncopated verse picking interacting nicely with percussion that supplies the four. In "Home Sweet Home" the guitar is appropriately melancholy. "You Me and Someday" turns the rhythmic tables with Howard often hitting all four beats and percussion working around them. But, there's more. Howard's outlook is so romantic and his Christopher Cross-like tenor so sincere that even his double entendres sound sweet. Readers of Minor7th will find enough six-string to appreciate in "City Heart." They may also find themselves drawn in, like fish on the line, by the hooks. © David Kleiner

Charlie Hill "The Landing," 2011 "Dogs in Paradise", the opening tune on Charlie Hill's debut CD "The Landing," is a relatively slow melodic and rhythmic tune. The alternating bass pulsing and sparkling treble notes actually brought to mind a couple of dogs playfully and lazily playing on a sun drenched front porch. Hill works his way through a handful of original compositions that are complex enough to intrigue and simple enough to please. Crisp technique, and warm tone are present throughout, but really shine on the title cut, "Surreal McCoy" and "Love Letters from Arabia", the later performed on harp guitar. The sonic palette offered is consistent, even considering Hill's vocal on the next last track, which surprisingly seems right at home on this first CD. © James Filkins

"Nathan Griffin" 2011 At times he sounds like something that should be coming out of an old Victrola, at other times a more current roots/alt country hybrid with a touch of New Orleans and sly, sometimes humorous lyrics. His Everyman voice leads a band of acoustic guitar, tuba, accordion, keyboards, banjo and simple drums (perhaps just a snare and kick drum). "Everything" has thoughtful lyrics and pleasant harmonies. In "Upon the Wind" he sings "I risk life and limb to be out in the wind / Pull anchor and set sail again," all to a laconic tempo that could be a contemplative ballad or a dirge, depending on the listener’s mood. "Thirty Five" is more light hearted, about an "old man with a little kid inside" and features a tuba. Highlight is "Same Old Story," performed simply with two acoustic guitars and a couple of voices. In it he sings "It ends where it starts, starts where it ends." It’s an intriguing and kind of mysterious piece, much like most of this disc. © Jamie Anderson

David Youngman "Alive," 2011 There's certainly lots of young guitar players across America who are trying to showcase their chops and expand their aural boundaries. David Youngman is one of those guitarists, and on this CD, "Alive," Youngman lets us hear the woodshedding he's been putting in. It's a mix of 6 and 12-string guitar, with fingerpicking, tapping, and wide use of harmonics to create a palette of colors and hues. The playing is pretty good for an initial effort, though the audio quality could use some help to avoid sounding too thin at times. The title cut, "Alive" opens the CD with strong percussive elements, and a jangly melody. "Starry Night" is a lovely, flowing tune played with multiple guitar parts, the sweet gem of the record. Youngman includes a cover of the great Billy McLaughlin's dancing, hyperbolic "Fingerdance," and it's a passable nod to McLaughlin, though at times the tempo meanders just a bit. Stephen Foster's Americana classic "Oh Susanna" features a rollicking feel, almost a groove, that adds freshness to a song played by thousands of guitarists over the years. "Jesus Loves Me" brings out Youngman's playful, funky side. The 12-string lends an air of reverence to "Communion," while "Island Jam" on 6-string is a mix of chordal figures and single note melodic lines. The CD ends with "Lullaby," a delicate flower of tapping and harmonics that form a bell-like closure to the day and the disk. © Kirk Albrecht

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

Rupert Wates - At the Loser's Motel
Rich Osborn - Giving Voice
Eric Congdon
Lara Herscovitch - Four Wise Monkeys
Travis Nevels - The Gentle Art of Agression
Christine Santelli
Jenn Lindsay - Prospect Hearts
James Clay - Breaking the Spell
Jess Klein - Behind a Veil




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