August 5, 2012

Richard Osborn “Giving Voice: Guitar Explorations”

- a review by Andrew Stranglen

 Before writing this review, I was prefaced with the idea that it might be a challenge to come up with something satisfactory, and that appeared to be true especially after reading David Leicht's review at Work and Worry.
Now that you've read the Work and Worry review you don't really need this, but here goes, I'm ok with it and I hope it satisfies:

 “…an amazingly patient, spacious, and quietly emotive style.”
- Acoustic Guitar Magazine

  I couldn't agree more!, This was the first thing I noticed on listening to this collection for the first time.  A self-styled "Free-Raga" player, Richard Osborn uses open tunings and a great sense of space and timing to expose the sonic vastness held within his guitar.

  On his website it is explained that Richard Osborn studied under and performed with Mr. Robbie (Basho) Robinson in the early 1970's. Some time after, he suffered an injury to his left hand that kept him from playing guitar (at least publicly) for some 20 years!  It was around 1995 that he found enough strength had returned to his fretting hand to "rebuild his technique and approach".  I can certainly sympathize with this kind of a setback, having myself had an operation to relocate my left Ulnar nerve a few years ago, I'm still not where I was with my own guitar technique back in 2000-2005 before the nerve got pinched.  So I know what it is to rebuild one's technique and approach. I'm still at it . . .

ACK! the Genre listing says NEW AGE, but 'Giving Voice - Guitar Explorations' won't make you think of mushroom hallucinations or alien encounters.  It falls more into the genre of just plain "Primitive Guitar", or "Guitar Soli".   With Raga-based improvisational techniques, Richard lets his tunes set their own course, and nothing is rushed.

  I like this album a lot and find it to be a relaxing, soothing, undemanding-to-the-listener meditative experience.  It's a nice antidote to the urban-hubbub of our all too busy lives.

 The Basho influence is noticeable, but never pretentious, which cannot even be said about some of Basho's own oeuvre, C'mon, ya gotta' admit Robbie does go over the top at least a few times.  Perhaps this is because Richard is taking more advantage of the spaces between notes than did Basho.  Richard's timing, pause, and recapitulation seems more pensive, as if he's letting the guitar make it's own improvisational decisions.   But we know this is all happening between his ears and hands, Richard’s left-hand injury has obviously not made a dent in his relationship with his guitar.  Often using lower strings moreso than the upper triad or dyad, Richard masterfully wends his way on this collection of 'guitar excursions' through various soundscapes evocative of places rarely seen or not-yet-visited, Badlands and Grand Vistas both internal and external.

 I'm thinking take 1/2 Basho(unspiced raga variety) with 1/4 John Fahey and 1/8th Glenn Jones, 1/8th Michael Gulezian, and maybe you're getting close to describing Osborn's sweet collection of tunes.  The longer raga-esque pieces (4 are over 7 minutes long) betray longer time in development yet retain a sense of spontaneity and freshness, while the shorter pieces seem generally more improvisational.  There are a few track to track seamless transitions on this album none the least of which occurs when playing the album on repeat, you can hardly tell the ending from the beginning.  This is a good thing.  The intro and the outro connected such that the outro serves as 'intro' to the intro. I hope that made sense.  Anyhow, of all the various claimants to Bashodom, or 'Bash-O'-ismic influence, Richard Osborn's guitar sensibilities hit maybe the closest of them all.   -Andrew Stranglen

You can purchase it at CDBaby
Richard Osborn's blog
Visit Richard Osborn's site


  1. One of my favs is The View from San Damiano, With Rain – I don’t know anything about the view from San Damiano, but Osborn takes me there and I have no doubt I am listening to the beginnings of a nice rain that builds to a chaotic chatter and the eventually soothing feeling of it subsiding to a gentle patter. Another is Knight’s of the Interior Castle, a trip through the lower registers of his instrument. This is something I always enjoy in a piece, movement at the low end always makes for a good listen and this hits the mark.

  2. good review, in that you mentioned Osborn's use of space (breath) between notes and phrases, and his patience and willingness to let the pieces slowly unwind. the unrushed ragas on the cd are engaging, focused, and never repetitive, which (imo) is more than can be said for most guitar music of this genre.
    ......and sacrilegious as this may sound, that includes much of Basho's music as well.
    looking forward to more music from Richard Osborn.

    1. Thanks, I'm also looking forward to more Richard Osborn tunes!