Duck Baker has been a figure in the acoustic guitar scene since the 1970’s and The King of Bongo Bong, his third record on the Kicking Mule label, highlights his interest in swing, blues and folk guitar. Duck would, later in his career, delve as deeply into Celtic and other traditional styles as he does into 20’s-era swing guitar on this recording. The four-to-the-bar style is prominent on a number of these tracks, and as usual with Duck Baker, a nylon-string guitar is played throughout the album. Duck mixes his playing with both strummed-chord comping on the more upbeat numbers and fingerstyle on the more intricate tunes, oftentimes blending the two picking styles.
The album kicks off with “New Righteous Blues”, a Baker/Stefan Grossman duet which oddly introduces Duck’s playing as accompaniment to Grossman’s soloing over the track. Though some of Stefan’s lead lines are tasteful, his pentatonic leads packed with skillful string-bends, this ever-present soloing seems overpowering in its presence throughout the track. Duck’s admirably honest voice doesn’t quite command one’ s attention enough to make this a strong vocal piece, either, which makes it a diffused rag-blues workout. Blind Blake’s 1930 recording of this song is far more compelling in its buoyant rhythm and highly syncopated style, and Blake’s original falsetto on the answering lines is missed in this updated version. “Deep River” features another prominent lead guitar contribution by Grossman, who also produced this album. Continue reading →
Somehow, I had never heard of “Little” Toby Walker before his new CD arrived in my mailbox. When I opened the envelope, though, I was delighted to find out that Walker had been led to me by a mutual friend, Mr. Denis Turbide, and I decided to give the disc my utmost attention. I could surmise from the packaging that the man has good taste in guitars: there are a couple of handsome Huss & Dalton models featured, one on the cover and one on the inside panel, and Walker indeed plays an H&D OM, along with a couple of National guitars, on these recordings. It was also readily apparent from the album title (and the bound-and-gagged cover portrait) that Walker has a sense of humor about himself, which immediately endeared me to him… a lot of us young guitar-slingers definitely take ourselves way too seriously! All of this, combined with a few familiar rags and fingerstyle-guitar showpieces peppered into the tracklist, led me to assume that Mr. Walker probably knows his way around 6 strings… and though that assumption proved correct, my opinions regarding this disc are mixed. Continue reading →