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September & October Short Takes

Terry Robb "Resting Place", 2005 Robb plays steel-string acoustic guitar here and displays a skilled hand at several blues styles, including John Hurt- cum John Fahey style picking, the Reverend Gary Davis' blues technique, slide guitar and an in-your-face single-string style. Several tracks recorded in Memphis feature bass guitar, drums and piano along with Robb's guitar and vocals and convey an infectious good-time feel. These include "My Baby Left Me," "Lonely Avenue," "My Sweet Potato" and several others. Robb presents a varied, adventurous program, breaking up the band cuts with solo guitar pieces, typified by his juxtaposition of "Lonely Avenue" and John Fahey's "Joe Kirby Blues, where he uncannily approaches Fahey's tone and microtonal bends. Other favorites include the blues rumba, "Louise," "My Mind is Trying to Leave Me," featuring tasty lead playing, "Cassie," a jazzy instrumental recalling Chet Atkins and "Like Merle [i.e., Travis]." Terry Robb is well-established as a performer and guitar teacher in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. This solid release should gain him additional fans. © Patrick Ragains

Adrienne Young & Little Sadie "The Art of Virtue" 2005 I read an interview with Canadian band The Duhks where they commented that they took traditional folk and "duhkified" it. Young does that too only she's written most of these songs. All have a contemporary American folk feel but breathe with the timeless beauty of songs learned on grandpa's front porch. In fact, at the age of 80, Young's grandpa still plays in a bluegrass band. From engaging story songs like "Pretty Ella Arkansas" and "Rastus Russell" to covers like the Dead's "Brokedown Palace," every cut is beautifully arranged and played with the acoustic guitar providing a comfortable bed. "Hills and Hollers" is as full of hooks as a tasty pop song but performed like a good roots tune with fiddle, sparse drum set, guitar, banjo, fiddle and more. Young won first place in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and it's easy to see why. Highly recommended. © Jamie Anderson

Eli Young Band "Level," 2005 All roads lead to Nashville for up and comers, The Eli Young Band, and their new release "Level." Hailing from Texas, this talented group of musicians, singers, and songwriters possesses everything CMT appears to adore: hooky songs, lots of guitar, a fresh and bouncy groove, and more than a touch of country. There’s nothing too retro, though, which, again, should make The Eli Young Band regulars on country music’s foremost TV outlet soon enough, right along side the likes of Tim, Toby, Kenny, and Dierk. James Young’s raunchy guitar complements the smoother, pop leanings of Mike Eli’s vocal nicely, keeping things from getting any sweeter or slicker than they need to be. Tracks to listen for are the plaintive "When it Rains," the driving title track, and the passionate "Highways and Broken Hearts," which Young’s guitar work keeps real. © Chip O'Brien

Sumitra "Indian Girl", 2005 Sumitra describes her music as "pop songs in a jazz setting." It would be very difficult to describe her music as either pop or jazz - it's too intelligent for pop, too accessible for jazz. The two acoustic standout tracks are "Destiny 2001" and "One Life," the former because of an oddly-metered contagiousness, the latter because of the message. Alex Machacek is an exceptional legato guitarist in the vein of Holdsworth whose guitar work on "Indian Girl" is exceeded only by his keen ear for nuance in his role as the producer of this CD. © Alan Fark

Giacomo Fiore "Tones from an Open Heart", 2005 I'll be playing this CD for a long time. Fiore composed all pieces and plays mostly steel-string guitar here, accompanied by tasteful percussion and, on "Genteel," by viola and cello. Highlights include "Tennant," played on nylon-string, "A Hundred Days/Dance of the Lilies," played on the steel-string but with a classical approach, "Genteel," where Fiore plays a delicate melody supported by a string duo, and "How Good it Would Be." Fiore composes and plays with a charming lyricism. "Comfort of the Sun" seems to typify his approach: melodies evoking optimism, rhythmic variations and interesting movement in the bass register, accompanied by light percussion. On first listening, I thought many of these tunes would sound great with lyrics, and that Fiore might broaden his appeal by writing words for his music or working with a lyricist. As it is, this is a very enjoyable effort -- one I recommend for all fingerstyle enthusiasts. © Patrick Ragains

Carl Weingarten, "Local Journeys", 2005 Funny what a good cover can reveal about a CD. On the front, listeners observe three solitary swings on a deserted playground framed in shades of gray. On the back, those same swings now close, brought to life with the smiling faces of rapturous kids flying through the air. "Local Journeys," Carl Weingartens's second instrumental guitar release, is hard to label because of the many influences heard: jazz, world music, even psychadelia; some will call it "New Age" to be sure. With help from Michael Manring on bass and Brian Knave on percussion, the eleven tracks present a collection of aural cinescapes. Weingarten employs various stringed props to open the lens of his journeys, from electric guitars, to dobro, to the ebow. The title cut cruises with the staccato beat of Knave while Weingarten fastens electric lead lines through his mind's eye. "Rendezvous" is a dreamy acoustic reverie punctuated by Manring's tasteful bass thoughts. We wait restlessly for the "Mourning Star." On "The Far Turn" we gaze curiously at those swings, wondering if it's our time for a spin in the sky. This is atmospheric music at its core, and it's a nice backdrop to living in our atmosphere. © Kirk Albrecht

The Dreamsicles "Luv Songs for Grownups", 2005 Sibling harmonies always sound sweet, but it makes sense that harmony vocals between lovers might sound infinitely much sweeter. That's definitely the case with Cary Cooper and Tom Prasada-Rao, a married duo dubbing themselves The Dreamsicles. I've finally found a nice reason to be a grown-up... my ears and heart get to be the welcome recipient of a pop sound par excellence which plumbs a little deeper and wiser. © Alan Fark

Brian Henke "The Nature of Light", 2005 Fingerstyle guitarist Brian Henke transforms light into shimmering soundscapes on his fourth CD, "The Nature of Light." The oft-awarded Cleveland-based musican composes ethereal tracks that live somewhere between terra firma and cloud nine. His one-of-a-kind 29-string (!) Dreamcaster harp guitar contributes to their otherworldliness, but he’s clearly a master of tune and technique on his Larrive D-09 six-string. Perhaps the most aurally stunning of this all-instrumental, 21-song, solo collection is Henke’s seven-part "Wheel of Light," in which he creates music for the colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple and White. His liner notes for each track add to the inspiring nature of his thoughtful work, such as "The Color of the Wind": "I was sitting on my bed playing my guitar and out of the corner of my eye I saw the window reflected in the dresser mirror. It was a windy day and the branches of the trees were bending in the wind. I guess the wind got into my guitar as well." Henke’s appreciation of Earth’s everyday miracles permeates every note. © Fred Kraus

Big Blue Hearts "Here Come those Dreams Again", 2005 Oh, frontman David Fisher's creamy baritone and falsetto is to die for and cry over! Listen to Fisher soar finishing off the phrase "the loneliest man on the earth" near the end of "Love or Something Like That." And the twangy guitar and melodic lead playing of Scott Minchk (dubbed by Fisher "the redneck Mark Knofler," with good reason). And the instantly memorable tunes that know when to shift from major to minor. And how pretty it all is song after song, like "Lovin' You," "Here Come Those Dreams Again" and the title track. Gorgeous, simply gorgeous. © David Kleiner

Meghan Hayes "Go and Give the Guard a Break", 2005 Meghan Hayes takes the listener on a tour of pre-New Wave American music, with a mix of styles from singer/songwriter ("The Brighter They Come," "Tin"), to guitar-driven rock ("Voice Like Mine"), to shades of Bacharach ("Branson"). "I'm Not Leaving," the best cut on the CD, is a terrific opener, with emotional impact and a hook ("I am not leaving, I'm just not coming back") you'll catch yourself repeating later. Hayes performs a nifty trick with another key line, turning "It won't help to keep it open/Not the slightest little crack" so it refers to a heart as well as a door. In fact, the turn of phrase is one of Hayes' strengths; the album abounds with good examples: a room where "the smoke is fat and the lies are thin," "the saddest pearl that's been fed to swine," "the brighter they come, the darker the fall." An intelligent effort with ambitious reach. © David Kleiner

Guitar Tab

Laurence Juber, Ed Gerhard, David Cullen, Al Petteway and others play Manicini

Read Minor 7th's review of Pink Guitar in the November/December 2004 issue, buy "Pink Guitar" at Acoustic Music Resource

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