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September & October 2013 Short Takes

Sight Unseen "The Twisted Man," 2013 Alt-folk duo Sight Unseen explores love and loss both musically and lyrically in "The Twisted Man." Composed of New England singer-songwriter Jared Fiske (guitar, vocals) and Chicago musician Seth Adams (bass, percussion, keyboards), Sight Unseen uses electronic elements to expand a traditional folk aesthetic. Fiske and Adams are also brothers, and performed in the family band along with their father as teens. The title track transmits the ache of Fiske's failed marriage, while their "Denial" makes a pleasant foray into the alt-country realm. The brothers team nicely throughout the EP's five original and well-crafted compositions. © Fred Kraus

Growling Old Men "Chicken Feed & Baling Twine," 2013 It's catchy, melodic and the musicianship astounds. No surprise there for fans who have discovered the talented duo of John Lowell and Ben Winship, whose fourth CD continues their infectious blend of traditional bluegrass with modern sensibilities. Lowell (guitar and vocals) and Winship (mandolin and vocals) again locate the happy nexus of skill and song – with the occasional help of bass and harmonies from David Thompson – on track after track. Lowell's original "How Many Days" sounds like an instant classic while their smooth take on "Lazy John" sets the tone of familiar yet deceptively intricate craftsmanship. Flatpicker Lowell also has a solo CD out, while Winship has written the book on mandolin (literally -- he has an instruction method book out!) and performs with another band, Brother Mule. Northwesterners Lowell and Winship simply create extraordinary Americana music. More, please! © Fred Kraus

KC Craine "Guitar Notes," 2013 "Guitar Notes," a new CD of fingerstyle acoustic music from Kevin "KC" Craine of Portland, Oregon, takes the listener on an atmospheric journey through compositional terrain that ranges from brightly colored, such as bluesy "Creeper," to dimly lit, such as moody "Sasha's Lament" -- with a little Hawaiian slack-key thrown in. Craine's impeccable technique and clarity are evident throughout, as is his control of dynamics, whether on fast-paced romps like "Two Rivers" and "Dance of the Lawn Gnomes" or slow tempo "Mahaulepu Serenade," "The Last Trillium," and "Heart Pieces," where Craine stretches the pauses between the notes to amp up the emotion. The influence of Windham Hill is apparent in his compositions, with their emphasis on soft edges, but it is in the more bluesy pieces, such as "Not Guilty," that Craine especially shines. Whatever the landscape, "Guitar Notes" is a wonderful addition to the acoustic guitar repertoire © Céline Keating

Donovan Raitt "Strategic Tension," 2012 Rhythmic moods dominate this strictly solo acoustic guitar release from fingerstylist Donovan Raitt. Compositionally Raitt develops themes with an emphasis on repetition and melody rather than flashy soloing or killer licks on this first full CD. He accents these grooves with strategic tapping and percussive playing, making the CD's title apt. His more complex compositions like "The Road Home" and "Lullaby" stand out from the coalescent nature of this collection of very listenable tunes. © James Filkins

Les Finnigan "The Brave Dog," 2013 This is Les Finnigan's seventh guitar recording, and "The Brave Dog" comes with a bonus – the DVD "Live at the West Coast Guitar Night," giving fans a chance to see Les playing 6 tunes from a concert recorded in 2011. Finnigan's playing on "The Brave Dog" is less tapping and percussive than some other earlier efforts, incorporating a bit more straight picking, and overall follows a more reflective tone throughout the disk. The opening cut, "Race to the Shore," is more upbeat, as the title suggests. "Eleven and a Half" is a funky groove between bass and trebles. One of Finnigan's strengths is knowing when to end a song, not repeating a lot of phrases. No song is actually longer than four minutes, rare for acoustic guitar music. "Curious as a Raven" is a gentle ballad, while "Drawing Board and Fret Board" suggests exploration of the tonal palette in minor chords. "March of the Millipede" utilizes triplets in staccato to create the image of watching a military review of millipedes in formation across your living room floor. The 11 tracks end with "Coral Piece," highlighting Finnigan's ability to make us listen, not so much to figure out what he's doing, but just to appreciate the sound. Finnigan creates lovely melodies, never trying to prove anything by his playing, but allowing his songs to sink into the soul. Another nice record from Les Finnigan. © Kirk Albrecht

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

My Sweet Patootie - Good Day
Morchella - Hannalee
Jeff Allegue - The Lovely Savages
Jen Chapin - Reckoning
The Loomis Fargo Gang - The Prettiest Shade of Blue

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