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May & June Short Takes

Dan Arcamone "In Motion," 2010 Dan Arcamone's "In Motion" takes off into the stratosphere where his debut CD "Trioisms" left off. Although Arcamone plays electric guitar, he achieves a softer, nearly acoustic tone by miking close to the strings. On "In Motion," Arcamone has added trumpet (Brad Mason), tenor sax (Mark Small) and voice (Kat Calvesa) into the mix, making for a near-religious musical experience. My favorite track, "Treeline," takes me back to the 1997 ECM release "Angel Song," on which Bill Frisell, Lee Konitz and Kenny Wheeler created similar spiritual magic. © Alan Fark

Jamie Anderson "Better Than Chocolate," 2009 "Better Than Chocolate" opens strong with "January," a jazz tune well suited to Jamie Anderson's smooth vocals. Like Dar Williams' "February," the lyrics use images of the season to evoke the difficulty of letting go ("I close my eyes to winter dark."). The folky "My Dad Loves To Sing" packs emotional punch. "Her Problem Now," a bluesy torch number, is one bitter put down song. "Ghost Song" -- featuring a warped, spooky fiddle solo-harkens back to English ballads of lovers reunited after death, but with a revelatory twist. The Latin tinged "Public Radio" is clever, but feels like the PSA it is. However, it will likely find a place-you guessed it -- on public radio where sadly, as Anderson sings, it's "the only place you'll hear someone like me." This EP effectively showcases Anderson's talent across genres. (FULL DISCLOSURE: Jamie writes for Minor7th. She penned the review of my latest release "The News That's Fit to Sing".) © David Kleiner

Carlos Barbosa-Lima "Merengue," 2009 Legendary guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima has been at the very forefront of Brazilian music for over four decades. His current release, "Merengue" chronicles compositions reflecting the guitarist’s eclectic interests in Jazz, Classical, Modern, and Latin American music. The album contains landmark works by renowned composers such as Jobim, Villa-Lobos, and Gnattali. Joining the guitarist is a stellar cast of musicians including Marcilio Lopes (mandolin), Duduka Da Fonseca (percussion), Gustavo Colina (cuatro), and George Anderson (bass). The opening track "Invocation to Xango" marks the debut of the "World Guitar Trio" featuring the leader with Australian Karin Shaupp and Texan Christopher McGuire. The piece intricately fuses traditional Brazilian with modern motifs performed with passion and precision. On "Modinha" and "Seis Por Derecho" Hendrik Meurkins makes a very special guest appearence on harmonica showing how seamlessly the instrument blends with Brazilian music. The album closes with the gorgeous ballad "Fantasy on a Hawaiian Lullaby" which pays homage to the Island’s lush slack key fingerstyle tradition. With "Merengue" Carlos Barbosa-Lima proves that he is still a driving force in the musical scene today. This release is highly recommended for aficionados of Brazilian guitar music but would also make a great starting point for those new to this engaging genre. © James Scott

Sharon Klein "The Way Back Home," 2009 After a career focused on the musical production of other artists, singer/songwriter Sharon Klein turns to her own work with her debut CD, "The Way Back Home." A world traveler, Klein encapsulates observations from her life’s journeys, as her musical characters sketch a world often heavy with heartbreak, but still with the promise of hope. While Klein, a master fingerstylist, incorporates elements of American folk and jazz, she also weaves a more exotic thread throughout the 11-track collection by playing such instruments as the Middle Eastern oud and including raga song elements. A nice stable of musicians rounds out Klein’s effort, including Ken Veltz on drums. © Fred Kraus

El McMeen "At Home Picking... and Talking," 2010 When I heard El McMeen’s incredibly laid-back approach to his new recording project, "At-Home Picking ... And Talking," it felt as though I were putting on an old favorite shirt or pair of shoes. McMeen’s fret work is, perhaps, the most honest and forthright guitar playing on the planet. There is no hint of pretense or showmanship. It is at once honest and crystalline and gushes integrity. There are no frills here, just El’s unadorned guitar playing and his quaint living room chatter. Yes, on a day in December while Mr. McMeen awaits the furnace repairman (it may sound pretentious or contrived but it is neither) he introduces, chats and muses about the tunes he is spontaneously about to play. This is the closest you will ever get to having your favorite guitar player sitting in your living room for an informal chat and picking session. My favorites include Angus MacDonald’s "Turf Lodge" and "Bonaparte's Retreat". © James Filkins

John Milstead "Sides of the Soul," 2010 Variety is the spice of life -- all you need is a guitar and a song (and a few backing musicians). Yes, there are indeed many intriguing sides of Mississippian multi-instrumentalist John Milstead’s soul. He's a rocker ("Your Crime"), a bluesy crooner ("Don't Believe In Love" -- be sure to check out JM’s neo-psychedelic solo breaks), a romantic troubadour ("Hold Me Like You Mean It"), an R & B purveyor ("Got This Love Thing"), a torch song balladeer ("Always Goodbye," "No Feeling"), and a reggae man ("Hideaway"). With a delivery that evokes iconic vocalists such as Pat Monahan (Train), Paul Rodgers, John Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls), and Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum) Milstead can do no wrong on "Sides"... melding pop and blues melodies atop his no nonsense guitar artistry (i.e. a simple yet refreshing blend of rhythm, supportive harmony and space). This is the stuff that made Mellancamp, Springsteen, and Petty stars... let's hope there's room for John Milstead -- he’s certainly got the goods as evidenced on SOTS. © Tom Semioli

Dave Flynn "Contemporary Traditional Irish Guitar," 2009 When I received Dave Flynn's recent disc entitled "Contemporary Traditional Irish Guitar" I honestly didn't know what to expect. Driven by my curiosity, I listened to the album immediately. Nothing could have prepared me for the innovative, soothingly pastoral music that washed over me. The works, arranged and composed by Flynn, are a unique and truly satisfying blend of traditional Irish melodies and harmonies, gently delivered in a contemporary style vaguely similar to new-age fingerstyle guitar. At a glance, the specific nature of the album title might seem to suggest that there won't be very much variety in the music, but the truth is that each work is unique and the album is a journey through a diverse collection of compositions. Resting comfortably between the worlds of classical guitar and popular music, this album has a distinctly universal appeal. If you're not already intrigued, try listening to one track, I can almost promise that you will want to buy this disc just to hear them all. © Timothy Smith

Anton Emery "Noone Lasses," 2009 Anton Emery’s debut CD "Noone Lasses" has all the qualities of that rare album that one finds it an obscure record shop that instantly becomes and remains a lifetime favorite! Emery interprets 12 Celtic tunes and imbues them with clarity and sublime warmth. The emotional texture Emery achieves with his sense of voice, melody and acoustic acumen creates a sonic tapestry that stirs and soothes. His sense of sonic space and breath is particularly keen on "Tribute to Peador O’Donnell" and "Child’s Grove". "Noone Lasses" establishes Anton Emery as an important and significant new interpreter of instrumental Celtic music. It is no wonder Steve Baughman and (engineer) and Acoustic Guitar’s Doug Young signed on to engineer this delightful collection of acoustic gems. Quiet Sunday mornings were made for music of this quality. © James Filkins

Terry Holder "Ticket to the Moment," 2008 The lovely C# minor guitar arpeggio that opens "Cross Your Mind" makes a statement. Throughout, this record will have no fear of being pretty. In an album where most everyone is falling in or out of love, there's little new to say, but all the loveliness proves more than enough to keep this disk in the player. The highlight of the record is a revelatory cover of Phil Everly's "When Will I Be Loved." I always considered the versions we've heard before -- even the Brothers' -- a bit too jaunty. In this down-tempo take, just the knife on strings slide is enough to make you weep let alone Holder's sultry-sad vocals. "Satellite's" shimmering twelve-string Rickenbacker suggests someone's a Byrds fan. This track should come with a warning label: when Ms. Holder coos, "Let's drink fine red wine in my living room," some listeners will find themselves combing their hair and donning their snazziest outfits. © David Kleiner

Los Guitarristas "Paisajes de Sudamérica," 2009 Based in Chicago, this classical guitar quartet is comprised of Chilean native Alfonso Chacon (director), Rob Clearfield, Neil Dixon Smith, and Daniel Gomez. Each selection on the CD is a medley of works (including traditional material, pieces by well-known composers, and some by Chacon) intended to portray the musical traditions of each South American nation. "Paisaje de Brasil begins with an excerpt from Pixinguinha’s choro, "Carinhoso", segues into balon and samba movements, and culminates in Chacon’s bouncy "Marcha de Carnival’, complete with whistle, bass drum and other street sounds. Paraguay starts with José Asunción Flores' "India", which the group pairs with "Pajaro Campana", a Paraguayan polka. The quartet also plays several tangos, including "La Cumparsita" (part of the Uruguay suite. This CD is lively, enjoyable, and should further the quartet’s goal to spread awareness of the music of South America. © Patrick Ragains

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

Ale Demogli Quintet - Just Songs
Toby Walker - Speechless
Eric Skye - Slow Moving Dog
Ben Woolman - Many Moods
Bill Price - With the Eye of a Skeptic
Markham Brown - Acoustic Air
Michael Jonathon - Ravenwood
Jamie Kindleyside - American Blue


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