August 23, 2010

Yair Yona - Remember

“Originally issued in 2009 on Anova, Remember received rave rumblings from the grassroots steel string blogs and fan sites, finding its way into the circle of steel-string heads. Reissued via our Resurrection Series…” So says the one page on Strange Attractors Audio House…I like to think I’m one of those blogs. I got in on the ground floor with this release, waaaaay back in the old days when Yona was actually giving this away. Know what? I bought it anyway. My post was a bit late and despite being captivated immediately by the music, I didn’t give it much of a review.

Time for a proper review. Not sure what the current releases include but the copy I received from the other side of the world has plenty of liner notes with tunings, inspiration and even a note on the composition where Yona dared declare to himself and the world that he is ‘only’ a guitar player (rather than a singer/songwriter). 

The CD as a whole is impressive on many levels. It’s an incredibly strong work for a debut. All the compositions are original and Yona lays down a great mix of solo acoustic work (on 6 and 12 strings and slide too) and modern, multi-instrumental pieces. And as I mentioned the first time I posted about this…the production is really top-notch.

Remember is the opening tune and you might wonder for a moment if you really have a Takoma influenced work playing or…what? And then the Weissenborn kicks in. Nice piece with just a hint of synth.

Pharaoh is a slide tune that I liked the minute it started with a low, growling slide full of muscle. It quickly transforms into a brisk-paced piece that is going well just before the two minute mark. Suddenly it’s teetering on the ridiculous until he plays the perfect conclusion to that dangerously ridiculous phrase. Frankly I still remember the first time I heard the song and I thought, oh he’s done it now, no way out of this! But he makes it work so well and this is still a favorite of mine.

Russian Dance just grabs me right away with the rock solid thumb. A rather daring piece when it comes to cranky guys like me. You start throwing in too many instruments and drowning out the guitar and I’m probably done with you. However, Yona does it right on this one with accordion, banjo and mandolin all chiming in on this rollicking song. It works on every level for me, the mess of all the instruments vying for attention as the piece builds and the tight playing by Yona, especially coming out of the crescendo is perhaps one of the aspects that make this piece work so well.

Strange Attractors Audio House is also offering this tune as a free mp3: Brave Walls
Speaking of free goodies, I highly suggest you sign up for Yona's newsletters as they usually include some alt. mix, demo or work in progress. 

In addition there are some bluesy tunes Broken Rockin’ Chair and Struggled So Hard (with some well placed electric guitar) with the occasional (and welcome) clack of the slide on the guitar.

We get a little more synth on Are You Smarter than a 35 Year Old TV Host? And then unabashed tributes to John Fahey on Floodgate Opens to Allow a Ship to Come Through (As it Carries the Passenger Fahey on It) and Jack Rose with Sympathy for the Jack.

The CD wraps with Skinny Fists, an ambitious, symphonic piece, and again one that dares me to turn it off.  But I didn't and I don't think you will either.  For one thing he places the piece correctly in the tracking. Pieces that veer outside the ‘feel’ of a CD can often ruin the listening, especially the first impression when most of us listen from beginning to end. An adventurous piece is often well placed as a closer. If your fans made it that far you’ve likely reeled them in for your experimental trip, turns out it’s the perfect conclusion piece.

Keep in mind that SAAH is offering a limited pressing of vinyl as well for you old-timers/youngsters that are (re)starting your record collection. Still a CD guy like me? Cool, either way, buy it! He’s already working on the next release.

Remember, the Album

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August 8, 2010

Otis Taylor - Concert Review

It seems a bit odd that Taylor lives in Boulder and yet this is the first time I've seen him play.  So I was excited to finally get to see what I was sure was not going to be a run-of-the-mill blues show. 

Taylor opened the show playing  a Telecaster, solo.  Nasty Letter form his "Truth is Not Fiction" release.  He then brought up a band member whose name I can not recall (sorry dude) to play the djembe and played a stripped down version of "Lost my Guitar" from the Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs release. 

Taylor likes to build his songs in layers, it's a rather obvious trait you notice on his studio work.  What I didn't expect was that he was going to utilize a member of the band one person at a time.   By the third song he had added the drummer, Taylor is still playing the Tele.  But after a couple rockin' songs he makes sure we are all on our toes by hushing the drummers and performing a field holler. 

That was Taylor's segue to introduce the next band member.  Except in this case it was band members, plural.   A gospel choir.  Well, part of one, four members to be exact.  They sang "Amazing Grace" to warm us up a little and then it was back to Otis Taylor music...with a choir.  "Looking for Some Heat," again from Pentatonic, got the choir treatment as did the rest of the set.  That was it for the band.  Taylor took care of all the string work. 

The choir was an interesting addition and at times I thought it added a lot to the performances but once or twice they were little more than backup singers. 

Taylor is booked with the whole Sheryl Renee choir for the Telluride Blues Festival this year.

After a short break to sell some CD's, Taylor was back and I was happy to see a chair on the stage and shortly a banjo.  Taylor did one solo piece and then had the drummers join him for one more banjo piece.

The choir was soon back as well as the electric guitar for a few more songs including "Please Come Home Before It Rains" and "Hey Joe."

Taylor is a relaxed and fun performer.  He spent a good deal of the night winging it and it went quite well.  If you get a chance to see Otis Taylor, take it.  You never know what he might do!

Oh, and if anyone wants to donate a Santa Cruz Otis Taylor Signature guitar as pictured above, to Delta-Slider, just shoot me an email and I'll let you know where to ship it.  That'd be great!
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August 3, 2010

Petrifidelity - David Leicht & Raymond Morin

Something there just isn’t enough of in this world…guitar duets! Yes, seriously. And the American Primitive landscape certainly is nearly devoid of such efforts. Sure, then it's not really solo guitar, is it?  But what's solo about a lot of the current efforts on the modern scene?  Yes, the occasional occurrence of a duet is encountered and there have been the odd CD that has more than a few.  But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of effort directed at that sort of development of the current styles, as an extension.

In fact, I hadn’t thought about it much myself until this little gem of a CD arrived in my mail.

David Leicht and Raymond Morin are musical partners and have released “Petrifidelity,” a CD of guitar duets.  And what can only be viewed as bonus material: the guitar TAB to every song in the collection.

Petrifidelity?  What's that?  The word is David Leicht's creation: 
“Petrifidelity is a mash-up of petrified and fidelity.  ...taking turned-to-stone as a literal definition for “petrified” and combining it with “fidelity,” implies sounds that strive to be lasting (I hesitate to say "permanent")."

When asked about duet influences Morin said:
"Yeah, Grossman/Renbourn are a big inspiration, as are Renbourn/Jansch and Crandell/Bartels... not to mention rockers like Television, Love, The Smiths." 
I only came up with the Grossman/Renbourn and Renbourn/Jansch combos, didn't even think of rock influences.  But of course!

How many times have you listened to a CD and thought, wow, I sure would like to learn that piece, but I have no idea where to start? Wouldn’t it be great if all guitarists took the time to tab out their work? Well these guys did. The whole CD is tabbed out, both parts side-by-side so you and your pickin’ buddy can sit down and play a cool duet.

Conveniently each part fits on a single page allowing Morin (who did all the tabbing and the design of the booklet by hand) to place his part on one page and Leicht's on the opposite page. You lay the book open and there's the whole piece, both parts.

Morin and Leicht recorded these cuts "live" in the studio, except for a few critical harmonics they wanted sharp and clear.  All compositions are original by the duo.

As you can hear on the opening track, the guys can write a song that is pretty intricate.  Weaving the parts together.  But they are just as likely to dial it down a notch and let one guitar do the talking while the other slips in tasty augmentations.  As a whole the CD is pretty melodic and doesn't stray into the fields of dissonance. 

We've got a little of everything here, double drop D, open G, open C, standard, DADGAD, name it!  As for styles...well there is a bit of everything here, as Morin says there is sparse and melodic and of course the British inspiration is there as well.  And the last cut on the disc is a vocal, again a guitar duet as well as a vocal duet.

Copies are very limited and are only available through the Work and Worry site and at the live shows.  If you are in the Pennsylvania area be sure to check for tour dates.