Minor 7th Nov/Dec 2002: Peter Mulvey, Norton Buffalo & Roy Rogers, Ken Hatfield, Gert de Meijer, Steve Baughman, Paul Asbell, Brad Yoder, Steve Wildey
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Reviewing the best in guitar CDs, from jazz to folk to rock to new age, emphasizing acoustic and independent or obscure releases

November/December, 2002

Peter Mulvey, "Ten Thousand Mornings", Signature Sounds, 2002

A subway echoes eerily around a nearly empty station. The sound recedes, the space filling with Peter Mulvey's dexterous guitar. And so begins ten thousand mornings, a conceptual CD taking us underground for some extraordinary busking and a glimpse of the life. A new crowd of travelers arrives, hurrying to get somewhere else, 10,000 daily. For most, it's another day in thirty years of commuting. Some songs ("Running Up the Stairs," "Inner City Blues") are specifically for them. Many stop, drawn by Mulvey's intensity, chops, and musical ambition. His voice, roughened from projecting, adds rock to the roll of a fiercely attacked guitar that still manages to swing: catch Mulvey's handling of Marvin Gaye's bass line. Talented passers-by-like Erin McKeown on "Comes Love" and Jennifer Kimball on "Running"-spontaneously join in. Anita Suhanin asks to do a number ("For No One") then steals the resulting duet , sweetly mimicking the French horns in Revolver. A buddy, David Goodrich, comes by to play some lead. The station PA reverberates distantly during Randy Newman's "In Germany Before the War," providing synchronistic ambience for a very creepy song, as Mulvey acknowledges in his respectful -- though sometimes precious -- notes. The performer drops into another open tuning and launches a propulsive version of Los Lobos' "Two Janes." The subterranean acoustics are not "improved." Mistakes remain. Not for purists, but fitting for the occasion and the idiosyncratic song selection. Lesser known tunes represent familiar writers (including Dylan and Paul Simon). Mulvey warns against calling ten thousand mornings a covers album; these are interpretations that transform. Listen to "The Ocean;" compare it to Dar Williams' original. Spellbound by Peter Mulvey, you've missed another train. The subway is pulling out.
© David Kleiner

David Kleiner interviews Peter Mulvey!! - click here

Peter Mulvey's Website Buy it at Amazon.com
Listen to Stranded in a Limousine (RealAudio)

Norton Buffalo and Roy Rogers "Roots of Our Nature", Blind Pig 5077, 2002

Mamas, lock up your daughters when Norton Buffalo and Roy Rogers gig in your town. Their slinky, smoldering blues, heartfelt R&B, wise lyrics and voodoo backbeat on "Roots of Our Nature" will draw your darlings from their homes like moths to a flame. This 13-track, all-original collection just keeps smokin' like an all-night barbecue -- sometimes it billows, sometimes there's just a wisp, but it always, always, always beckons. Norton Buffalo is generally regarded as one of the most versatile and talented harmonica players in the music business. Roy Rogers' slide guitar work is legendary -- it's drop dead, jaw-dropping, slap-your-thigh and shake-your-head joy and wonderment. This collection, their third together, is their first together in more than 10 years. Guys, it really has been too long! Their individual solo careers are accomplished, but their duet work becomes something else altogether. As Rogers explains, "We're always looking to take the music someplace different." That's certainly true here, as they team with a virtuso collection of gents who round out the sound with everything from congas to cello to gypsy violin to acoustic bass to drums to, well, you get the idea -- and the production is top-notch. There is a balance of musical effort that works toward the whole rather than on individual performances. Truly, the biggest star on "Roots of Our Nature" is the songwriting. Buffalo and Rogers team for one of the more interesting collections in quite some time. These veteran pied pipers assemble such American art forms as blues, roots rock, zydeco, R&B, and soul gospel into a seamless and delightful tour of the American spirit.
© Fred Kraus

Norton Buffalo's Website Roy Roger's Website Buy it at Amazon.com

Ken Hatfield, "Phoenix Rising", Arthur Circle Music ACM-9512, 2002

I recall, as a college student in the '70s, buying a cut-out 8-track of Stan Getz and Laurindo Almeida's Bossa Nova classic, a purchase which sent me down an epiphanous musical road that I might never have otherwise experienced. Like a Phoenix rising from those remote legacies of Almeida, Charlie Byrd and Baden Powell, Ken Hatfield has made something significant come to pass again in the modern world of nylon-string acoustic jazz. Hatfield's music can't really be dubbed Bossa Nova, though his contemporary sound on "Phoenix Rising" obviously draws on those earthy Brasilian influences, particularly on "Tableau du Souvenir" and "For Jeanette". The austere classical introduction to the opening title cut is a prophetic hint that the music which follows will be multifaceted, shaped from several genres. Hatfield, a Berklee graduate and faculty member, is joined by Hans Glawischnig on bass, Dom Salvador on piano, Claudio Roditi on trumpet and flugelhorn, Billy Drewes on tenor sax and Duduka da Fonseca on percussion. Hatfield and sidemen luxuriate quite comfortably in bop and blues ("Yo Es", "Riff for Brother Jack"), mainstream cool ("The Aleph", "Combray") and contemporary chamber jazz ("Retroflexion", "Iberia"). "Iberia" especially is a festival for the senses, brandishing truncated meters with doubled guitar and trumpet phrasings, bringing to mind the early work of Kenny Wheeler with Ralph Towner. Hatfield wrote and arranged all ten tracks on this CD, a prolific composer as he is an able and passionate performer. Ken Hatfield's music may be classic jazz at its core, but even better... it's all sincerely gussied up with a fresh new face on it.
©Alan Fark

Ken Hatfield's Website Buy it at Amazon.com
Listen to Iberia (RealAudio)

Gert de Meijer, "Acoustickled", Acoustic Music Records 319.1263.2, 2002

Since the age of 10, Gert de Meijer has been driven to express his own musical vision. Apparently those early lessons proved to be quite difficult, but the difficulty turned to inspiration, and eventually the young Dutch musician would come to embrace the harmonic intricacies of the 6-and 12-string guitar, the latter being the instrument of choice. Gert de Meijer's masters include none other than John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Michael Hedges and Alex de Grassi. And for good reason, for while the fifteen all-instrumental selections de Meijer offers his listener in "Acoustickled" contain a wealth of technical precision, there is still a very inspired "edgy" feel here, or what I like to call the living-room effect. More akin to the type of musical storytelling indicative of some of Michael Hedges' later work, "Acoustickled" follows a poetic narrative where one can easily imagine a set of intimate dramas and fierce struggles. But whereas Hedges' music sometimes tended to too easily escape darkness, de Meijer passes right though it, and in doing so unconsciously refracts an aesthetic indicative of Nick Drake and Elliot Smith. The filters used in the recording process produce a silky quality that is ideal for the type of string-slaps and double harmonic swipes that de Meijer accomplishes so effortlessly on many of his songs. The first piece, appropriately titled "The Run", begins as a fast-paced romp animated by a percussive, low-end strumming technique. As the work develops, the progression invisibly merges into a set of rich arpeggios which circulate in the mid-to-high range. Rather than a set of isolated songs that have little to do with one another, de Meijer's compositions artfully dissolve into one another while maintaining their melodic integrity. Just as one tune comes to crystallize, the musical line begins to refocus itself and organically rebroadcast what was just articulated anew. To put it succinctly, you can't ignore this type of music. It materializes before you, and either you accept it and let it move you or you miss the point altogether.
© Bernard Richter

Gert de Meijer's Website Buy it here
Listen to Framed Motions (streaming mp3)

Steve Baughman, "The Angel's Portion", Solid Air SACD 2021, 2001

From the standpoint of technique, what sets Steve Baughman apart from other guitarists working the Celtic vein is the use of his favored "Orkney Tuning" and a middle-finger "thwack"---a sort of banjo frailing technique applied to the guitar. Combining these unique approaches with his inherent feel, sensitivity and use of dynamics, Baughman is once more left standing in the dock as one of the usual suspects charged with committing excellent music to record. This time out, though, Baughman expands beyond the heavily-worked Celtic realm, as reflected in the collection's subtitle "Celtic, Appalachian and Swedish Guitar Instrumentals". Indeed, he goes still further and includes an original composition ("Bonnie Wahine") in what he calls the "burgeoning genre called Celto-Hawaiian music". The ethereal Scottish tune "Roslyn Castle" opens the album on a Celtic note with images of misty mountains. Baughman reinvigorates the oft-recorded "Carolan's Draft" as "One Draft Too Many", which he performs on a seven-string guitar. Appalachia is represented by the fiddle tune "Hickory Jack", dating from a 1937 field recording of a Kentucky fiddler. A nod to Sweden is given on "Skalarna" and "Polska Efter Pelle Fors". Baughman embellishes three selections with a second guitar, most beautifully on "Jer the Rigger", a fiddle tune from Clare which he drastically slowed down from its usually frantic pace to allow the melody to be fully realized. With so much heavenly music here, it is difficult to guess which tracks the angels will claim as their rightful portion.
©Patrick Grant

Steve Baughman's Website Buy it at Acoustic Music Resource
Listen to One Draft Too Many (streaming mp3)

Paul Asbell, "Steel String Americana", Busy Hands 1001, 2002

The best teachers create settings that allow -- no, make that compel -- their students to learn. Singer/guitarist Paul Asbell's debut collection, "Steel String Americana," plays like your favorite class in your favorite subject. Perhaps it's the educator in him -- Asbell's been teaching guitar for 30 years -- that instills this 13-track CD with an attraction beyond the pleasure of mere listening. The songs unfold like a textbook of the roots of classic American acoustic guitarists and stylists. Many songs, such as Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust," make an instant connection, but then Asbell's amazing guitar work elevates them to a higher level. "Stardust," in particular, is pure gossamer, while the groove of "You Can't Get That Stuff No More" rolls and tumbles like summer thunder. His wistful, aching treatment of Carol King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" simply stuns. Asbell kicks things off nicely with a dazzling arrangement of Dr. John's "Such a Night." He goes spiritual with "Down in the Valley to Pray/Jesus, Make Up My Dying Bed" and shows he's just as at home in the swamp with Jerry Reed's "Amos Moses." Liner notes for each track really highlight the lesson with Asbell's gentle humor and a keen insight. Blues and traditional country are also nicely represented. Asbell does misstep, however, as with the questionable inclusion of a lead female vocalist on one track, and in perhaps slightly overusing his own pipes -- which has the unfortunate result of putting his guitar playing in the background. And do we really need another version of "Stack-A-Lee" (as he chose to spell it)? Such indulgences -- and we can also include the noodling on guitar with a young child on the unmarked 13th track -- only slightly mar a fine effort.
© Fred Kraus

Paul Asbell's Website Buy it at here
Listen to Amos Moses (streaming mp3)

Brad Yoder, "Used", Reverie Records 103, 2002

Brad Yoder is smooth. His radio friendly arrangements reflect a pop sensibility ready for the emo side of your dial. His deadpan tenor embodies perfectly the sad-sack-with-a-ready-wisecrack persona narrating most of Used, a self-esteem in need of uplift. Yoder's bald spot features prominently on the back cover. His "good friends see right though" him, a musician aspiring to be a "One Hit Wonder." The title track (and opener) reveals a man bruised "blue beneath the skin," held together by duct tape like his car, barely passing inspection year after year. But somehow -- he assures himself -- he will mend; we believe it, too, thanks to the light touch of Yoder's acoustic and the lovely harmonies. "When She Shines" exemplifies the emotional aesthetic: a peppy, sing-able chorus about unrequited love. Yoder's smoothness lends a comfort level to the proceedings, while threatening to confer a samey quality. He avoids that trap with more rhythm, smarts and adventure than your average singer/songwriter. The skillful rhymes work (house-trained / left-brained, mistaken for a king/ she wasn't listening); check out the chorus of "2nd Thoughts." The production fearlessly uses turntable, congas, horns, and wah-wah (Mike Gaydos' solo in "Stranger Selling Roses"). Yoder contributes jaunty guitar and organ (Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes). A clever lyricist, Yoder turns everything into a metaphor for losing. He's no "James Bond" but each "long(s) for just one day when nothing (blows) up in his face." Yoder tackles other subjects also, as in the political "Land of the Free." The packaging typifies the mindfulness behind the project. The ecological cardboard sleeve holds a facsimile of a Junior Walker forty-five and a beautiful insert with lyrics set among delightful photographs. Yoder wants us to believe he's a loser, but he's got me rooting for him, dancing, and singing along.
© David Kleiner

Brad Yoder's Website Buy it at Amazon.com
Listen to Used (RealAudio)

Steve Wildey, "Little Man" 809502-01, 2002

There's nothing quite like opening a letter from home. It reminds us of what was best about those growing years,, and if we are far away, will kindle a warmth like a winter's evening in front of the hearth. Steve Wildey captures that warmth so well on the leading cut of his first CD, the self-produced "Little Man". "Letter From Home" is a fingerstyle gem with a beautiful flowing melody in the midst of a strong debut by Mr. Wildey, a great way to begin a fine first offering. More than any other song on the CD, "Letter From Home" reveals talent both in composition and execution. He is able to effectively weave his melodies without losing the listener, something which can't be said for a lot of "new acoustic guitar" music on the scene. The recording at a few spots shows a roughness not uncommon with early efforts, but I have to admit, I really enjoy listening to it. Wildey shows off considerable chops in varied form. "Yellow" reminds me of Alex DeGrassi's chordal changes, while "Seasons of Life" shares some of Peppino D'Agostino's lyricism. Multiple guitar parts work well together on the Latin-influenced "Girls of Panama", and I thought for a minute I was on the beach with them. "Love's A Twister", is a playful Travis-picking rollick, joined by the hot, bluesy "Big Red Rolls", and the sweet title cut, "Little Man", dedicated to his son, who at a tender age may not yet fully appreciate his dad's fingers, but I'm sure he likes what he hears from these 11 songs. I know I did.
© Kirk Albrecht

Steve Wildey's Website

Slide & Blues Guitar of Roy Rogers
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