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November/December 2016 Short Takes

Les Finnigan "Out in the Wild" 2016 Canadian Les Finnigan has released another fine album of original solo acoustic steel string guitar music. He uses standard and alternate tunings and is skilled in percussive and more traditional fingerstyle techniques. His compositional influences include John Renbourn, John James, and Preston Reed. The opening track, "Neuromotion," incorporates two-handed tapping, which Finnigan uses to develop an intriguing melody on the bass strings. He also employs tapping on "The Dominant Phrygian," a more rhythmically varied piece with a Spanish/Arabic flavor. Two melodic voices converse in the bass and middle registers in "Box Of Gould," Finnigan's homage to pianist Glenn Gould, while I hear "More Or Less Happy" as a tribute to British guitarist John James. "Bedtime For Night Owls" thematically unifies the disc's music and slipcase art, although the tune led me to visualize exhausted humans nearing collapse at daybreak, rather than owls hunting in darkness. Perhaps Finnigan intended this dual association. "Sunrise Moon" follows, a dissonant piece that continues the pensive mood of "Bedtime." Out of the Wild reveals more depth and nuance with repeated listenings and is a fine addition to Les Finnigan's musical catalogue. © Patrick Ragains

Yuri Liberzon "Ascension" 2016 Ascension, the debut album from Yuri Liberzon is the next step forward in his young, but extraordinarily successful career. After first studying classical guitar in Isreal, he came to the US and was awarded full scholarships at both Peabody and Yale where he completed his Undergraduate and Master's degrees under the tutelage of guitarists Manuel Barrueco and Benjamin Verdery. Ascension is a lovely mix of repertoire, spanning Liberzon's own arrangements of Bach and Scarlatti, right up to Takemitsu's arrangements of Beatles songs. Liberzon bravely tackles the entirety of Bach's Violin Partita No.2, which contains the magnificent and infamously difficult Chaconne, throughout which both is arrangement and playing are thoughtful and true to the original spirit of the work. Also peppered across the album are three lesser known works, one Cuban, one Russian, and one an improvisation arranged for guitar by Manuel Barrueco. The result is an album that features a rich mixture of styles and textures, and an excellent introduction to Liberzon's remarkable talents. © Timothy Smith

Lara Herscovitch "Misfit" 2016 Lara's clear voice soars over her warm songs and crisply played guitar, offering us commentary about everyday life in a unique way. Arrangements are simple with her acoustic guitar at the center, framing each song well with percussion, backing vocals and more. Everything is well-recorded. It feels like a quality live recording and that's a great thing in my book. She excels at that well-placed lyric that makes the whole song. In "The Bravest Thing" she sings, "Love is the bravest thing we know." Ain't that the truth? In the title cut, she tells us she's "Not an angora, more like a happy stray cat." I love the gospel piano in her reworking of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" (aka "The Flame"). It has a more positive message than the original, urging us to stand for a better world. "Wonder Wheel" captures the life of a carny. It's in three-quarter time, reminding us of the rides. "Flim Flam" is a giddy recount of items found in a real-life police report of a small town, from a corn cannon blast to a raccoon found in a kitchen cabinet; in the liner notes she maintains that "The town has elected to remain anonymous." "Maybe Someday" is a pretty love song using the landscape as metaphor. Closing out the album is "Buddha on My Back," about letting go. © Jamie Anderson

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