August 31, 2008

William Ackerman - It Takes A Year

Review by Jim Esch
The lyrical strains of "The Bricklayer's Beautiful Daughter" (the memorable opener on William Ackerman's second album) confirm that the artist was on to something huge in popular music. Nobody knew what to call this new breed of gentle instrumental adventurism. It Takes a Year, like all the early Windham Hill albums, was a breath of pure air at a time when pop music was stuffed with commercialization and irrelevance. Ackerman adeptly blended folk, bluegrass, jazz, and classical influences into an accessible, mild-mannered hybrid style, strong on emotional expression and lyrical depth. Ackerman's solo technique is not showy, and others like Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges may have been more virtuosic in the chops department, yet Ackerman's trump card is his impressionist command of the acoustic guitar. His use of alternate tunings, overdubs, and a sensitive ear for melody helped to trademark this uncluttered sound, tuneful and rich in harmonic overtones. Some of the up-tempo numbers like "The Townshend Shuffle" have a bluegrassy flavor and, in general, the folk influences are readily apparent. But ultimately the music, much of it composed in the early '70s, stands out because it sheds the musical labels and carves its own space — deep emotional sentiments set into calm and reflective backgrounds. It's an open-ended sound, well suited to the spaces of California and the Western U.S. from whence it grew. Although the production quality varies from tune to tune making it a less consistent set than the follow-up Childhood and Memory, It Takes a Year is historically important for new age collectors because it built upon Ackerman's debut and set the mold for things to come.

Yeah, I know, wouldn't a little Blind Joe Death be better? Well this one by Ackerman is important to me because I hadn't learned to appreciate Fahey yet. Ackerman took Fahey's music and went off in his own direction, like it or not people it is true. When I heard this I thought it was amazing and like nothing I had ever heard. Fahey's music was so raw, Ackerman's stuff is well produced and I still like the sound of his early works. Eventually I worked my way back to Fahey, for that reason I suppose this work is important to me. Many people can't get past the New Age label and refuse to accept that Ackerman is a good artist. I prefer his first three works and then he clearly went off into his own music, as a musician should. You can't stay at the feet of your mentor forever. Give this one a shot!

August 27, 2008

Ragtime Ralph - Lost Blues: 1929-1934

This is the latest from the mysterious Ragtime Ralph, long ago seen opening for the one and only John Fahey. Ragtime Ralph has always shared his music freely and I hope he doesn't mind me posting it here. He did send me his limited edition CD of only 100 copies absolutely free.
This is a very good blues outing. Strictly oldtime blues, mostly fingerpicking and a little bit of very primitive stuff. He doesn't do much singing but when he does it is a low, growl. Good stuff. Hope you enjoy.

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August 22, 2008

Rene Heredia - Flamenco in the Americas

Spanish legend Sábicas has called René Heredia “the most sensational Flamenco guitarist in the United States.” His international recognition came when he was 17 and the incomparable flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya (Spain’s greatest dancer of this century) heard him play. She immediately took him to be her lead guitarist, and René toured many years doing concerts in the major capitals of Europe and the United States with the famous Amaya Ballet.
Artist website:
This is a fusion effort. Nice version of Sabicas' Fantasia Inca.
Buy Flamenco in the Americas