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July & August Short Takes

Paul Reddick "Revue," 2007 Paul Reddick revels in the blues. The Canadian-born composer and harmonica master inhabits the Americana art form the way a hound curls into the perfect spot not too near and not too far from the campfire. Fueled by the blues' glowing embers, Reddick breathes life into tracks by such legends as Little Walter Jacobs and Son House, and finds inspiration to create his own classics. Reddick assembles 18 of his most engaging recordings on Revue, spanning two decades of work. A lifelong blues aficionado, Reddicks forges his husky vocals and stellar harp work with killer arrangements and outstanding sidemen into a passionate celebration. © Fred Kraus

Bill Hibbets "Bricks & Trees," 2007 With a voice like sand and glue (think Bob Dylan in "Modern Times" or Mark Knopfler on a foggy day) multi-instrumentalist Bill Hibbets renders the bittersweet "Bricks & Trees" with the intimacy of a private performance. Hibbets' kaleidoscopic arrangements bring to mind the depth and creativity of contemporary artists who proudly adhere to the album rock era ethos such as Ryan Adams, David Gray, and the eternally youthful Richard Thompson as the artist melds acoustic and electric guitar passages with an array of disparate sounds, some of them organic, some conjured in the studio. In addition to excelling as a master story-teller ("lock the gate / make the butcher wait / he's got his tie on straight and it's raining"), Hibbits' penchant for melody and rhythm is uncanny - check out the weepy dobro licks on "Nobody Knows" or the subtle reggae grove that lifts the choruses of the opening cut "Bleu." This is the stuff of classic singer-songwriters. © Tom Semioli

Barb Ryman "Earthbound," 2007 You'll find songs of hope, spirit and spam from this folky Midwest artist. It opens with a lively flatpicked guitar and fiddle (played expertly by Peter Ostroushko) in a tune with upbeat lyrics -- the kind that make you wanna dance around your living room when no one's watching. "A Billion Tears" features an ethereal steel drum and a clear finger picked acoustic with lovely lyrics, "A billion tears 'cross the Milky Way sky." "This Empire is Falling" uses a light hand to cover the politics of war and ends with a optimistic plea to understand each other's lives. Finding solace is the theme of "Mushroom Rock" while "Spam Me" is much lighter, about the daily battle with junk email, "Spam me, spam me / Might as well take a truck and wham me." Ain't that the truth. After listening to this pleasant album you won't feel like you've been broadsided -- just relaxed and entertained. © Jamie Anderson

Edward Trybek "Portrait Of," 2006 Edward Trybek has enjoyed outstanding success on the international competition circuit over the past two years, including a silver medal last year in the 49th Tokyo International Guitar Competition. With these remarkable achievements behind him, Trybek is now releasing his debut album. "Portrait of Edward Trybek" is a balanced compendium of familiar classical guitar works, ranging from Renaissance to 20th Century. Many of these pieces he has retained from his competition tour, and as he no doubt played them masterfully then, he continues to do so now. Trybek presents the works with a delicate sensitivity to both phrasing and tone, which is further enhanced by his remarkable attention to detail. He programmed the music so that each track leads seamlessly from one to the next, carefully guiding the listener through several centuries of guitar compositions. His spirit as a performer is evident as he introduces the disc with "Open Up Your Ears" by Bryan Johanson, then later, as a digital encore, concludes with a bonus live recording of the Chaconne from the second Violin Partita by J.S. Bach. The successful completion of this recording is another great step forward in Trybek's blossoming career. © Timothy Smith

Harald Koll, "Now," 2007 With modern technology, it's become easy for musicians to record their own music and press it onto some CD's to get it into people's hands. Sure beats the old days of trying to distribute cassettes. Harald Koll from the Netherlands is one of many solo guitarists exploring the range of the tonal palette of the steel string guitar through altered tunings. He has a nice sense of direction in his songs, allowing the melody to flow. While his music doesn't have much flash, it has soul -- you can tell he truly owns the tunes he plays. Perhaps this is because many of his tunes seem to find their inspiration in his wife and children. "Mirel" is namd for his wife, and in it we hear echoes of some of Tommy Emmanuel's ballads with their mix of chordal runs with fingerpicking. (Could it also be that that he plays a Maton guitar primarily?) "Before" is a lovely ballad infused with grace. "Dirge for Avalon", as the name might imply, has a Celtic feel, slow and free, with the melody line floating gently over the steady rhythm. He closes the 13 songs CD with a nice version of the standard "The Water is Wide". He begins with some arpeggios, then segues into the melody. While it's not Ed Gerhard, it conveys well the melancholic beauty of the original. All in all, this is a nice collection of tunes from a good guitarist. © Kirk Albrecht

Scott Blasey, "Travelin' On," 2007 The opening salvo "I'm leaving soon / at the break of noon" aptly sums up the wandering spirit of Blasey's third solo effort. Late of the acclaimed Pittsburgh rock ensemble The Clarks, Blasey's tales of woe and uncertainty are juxtaposed by a jaunty rhythm section and sweet vocal harmonies evocative of modern alt-country rockers Beechwood Sparks, The Broken West, and Rhett Miller. Blasey makes good use of his guests too, especially Richard Martin who summons the ghost of Bowie Spiderman Mick Ronson by way of his slicing guitar lines in "See You Around." Vocalist Michele Pittenger transforms the downtrodden dirge "Sweet Mystery" into a romantic torch song. Despite the absence of percussion, the title cut swings as Blasey's nimble finger-picking and Rob James' brisk mandolin lines intertwine on top of the beat. Heck, there's even a cut Nick Cave could cover: "Bird On A Wire" -- not the Leonard Cohen song. Feeling "down" never sounded so "up." © Tom Semioli

Holly O'Reilly, "Gifts & Burdens," 2007 Listening randomly to the new tunes that came my way lately, every song that stopped me where I stood seemed to come from "Gifts and Burdens." The opener, the spiritual "Lay Them Down," featuring a lovely duet in close harmony with David LaMotte. The title track, beautifully establishing the ground rules for the confessional songwriting in this blazingly candid set. "New York," building on details -- the filthy subway stairs, the elevator buzz "marking off each floor," the "rooftops and clouds" out the hundredth floor window -- to arrive at a surprising conclusion about one person who’s decided to get out and many people "who didn’t get to choose when they left New York." Ms. O’Reilly has more than kept the promise in her liner notes. No one could make a record "more clear or honest" and more fine than this. © David Kleiner

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

Anthony Ocaña
Trench Town Oddities - Days and Nights
Steve Unruh - The Great Divide
Peter Lavender - Back to Normal (whatever that is)
Nice Ash - Daydream
Siobhan Quinn & Michael Bowers - Dreamers, Lovers and Outlaws
Michael Jonathon - Walden, The Earth Song Collection
Tom Salvatori & Iris Litchfield - When Evening Falls
Lea - Great Big World
Paul Reece - I'm Happy Cause I Sing

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