Pino Forastiere’s new album, From 1 to 8, presents seven studies for solo acoustic guitar with one overdubbed trio piece. Being issued on Candyrat Records ensures that the listener will be treated to a fair amount of technical prowess, a few tricks, possibly tapping, and a heightened compositional approach. This record does not disappoint. If anything, it raises certain expectations for other artists. Forastiere’s compositions are full of gnarled progressions that venture away from the theme, double back unexpectedly, and take the listener on a welcomed journey. Set in a modern guitar style, a classical background hides behind all of these compositions. The playing is exquisitely clean and the recording is reasonably true – not too crisp and not too much reverb. While technique abounds, there is a strong human feel to the playing. Continue reading
Maneli Jamal is a prodigious young fingerstylist, currently residing in Toronto, Canada. He works in the contemporary, highly physical two-hand style (lots of fretboard tapping with the picking hand) popular with a lot of young players these days, but there are several things that set Jamal apart from the multitudes of Andy McKee hopefuls who play the virtual YouTube circuit.
To say that Jamal’s technique is advanced would be a huge understatement. There aren’t many players in this style that have Jamal’s balance of power and sensitivity, nor his breadth of ideas. His rhythmic concepts can be alternately short and dense, or explored carefully through several movements, as in the four part suite from which The Ziur Movement album takes its name. Jamal has absorbed a number of musical styles, and he is able to seamlessly incorporate jazz, flamenco, classical and Persian ideas into his original compositions. The resulting pieces are very impressive, both technically and musically, and his CD is one of my favorites in the contemporary style.
I recently conducted this email interview with Jamal.
W&W : Let’s talk about the evolution of your fretting hand. You played in punk and metal bands when you were younger… would you say that that’s where you built up your strength and dexterity? Talk about your beginnings in guitar, and some of the early inroads you made toward your current (high) level of technique. Which players put you on the path to your current hybrid style?
When I started to play guitar I had already played violin for a few years learning from my father, a master Persian violinist. That definitely made learning the technical side of the guitar easier at first, especially the coordination between the hands. The great thing about punk and metal playing is that it’s fast and fun as hell to play for anyone starting the guitar.
Because I was self taught I used to be the kind of player that didn’t worry too much about accuracy but rather speed and what sounds cool, which was what punk music to me was all about. Unfortunately, I didn’t teach myself the discipline of accuracy and slow practice until years later. The guitarists of Thrice and Iron Maiden really influenced me in the punk / metal genre. I felt like I had reached a plateau after 3 years of playing that genre in my right hand picking. I thought the guitar pick was the best and most efficient way of playing the guitar… little did I know. I got into the likes of Al Dimeola and that opened up a whole new world for me. Continue reading
Breakfast For Dogs, Don Ross’ first solo guitar outing since 1999’s Passion Session, brings just enough innovation to familiar grounds, making it a disc worth hearing. It may seem that Ross’ relaxed virtuosity modulates within the boundaries of his comfort zone, but the range he is capable of exploring is actually quite broad. The tunes on this album are delivered with an unwavering enthusiasm for the instrument, and his connection with the novelty of the guitar is a theme that moves the listener through these tracks. What differentiates this collection from albums by some of Ross’ peers is that it doesn’t aim to be merely a podium for “gee-whiz” technical prowess, like the worst of Leo Kottke’s albums, but is an honestly played record, one that doesn’ t hide its weaknesses or carry a crutch.
The obsession with rhythm on this set of tunes has arguable merit. On one hand, the persistent 4/4 beat that most of the songs are anchored by, such as on “From France to India” and “Crazy”, provides a rhythmic underpinning closest to ragtime, with syncopated beats in the bass. On the other hand, the treatment of the melody and overall playing style is colored by a funky, almost disco feel, and so a song that might flourish were it given the chance to walk on its own two feet comes off as smarmy and cloying, with a snappy backbeat like so much mid-90’ s pop rock. Continue reading
Here on Work & Worry, we cover a lot of what could be considered traditional or neo-traditional acoustic guitar playing, usually rooted in blues and folk forms. Melodic ideas are often stated (or implied) with the high strings, and this is typically laid over a foundation of droning or alternating-bass… the beloved “boom-chick”. This is one, but certainly not the only approach to fingerstyle, and these days, the number of players who eschew traditional picking and employ extended techniques – right-hand tapping, artificial harmonics and playing the guitar’s body percussively – is ever-growing. CandyRat Records is home to many such modern-sounding players, several of whom also happen to be YouTube sensations (Andy McKee’s “Drifting” has more than 34 million views, as of this writing). It’s not surprising, since many of the aforementioned techniques, especially when played with speed, can be visually exciting. For all these reasons and more, this style, pioneered by players like Michael Hedges in the early 80’s, is riding a fresh wave of popularity.
Hunter Van Larkins is the duo of Ross Hunter and Owen Van Larkins, and their new album Myriad is one of the latest releases on the CandyRat label. It’s a completely instrumental affair, both players performing on steel-stringed acoustic guitars, with occasional help from a third guitar or cello. The overall sound of the record is contemporary, with ample amounts of reverb and electric pickup mixed in with the acoustic tones. The playing possesses some of CandyRat calling cards : the high-energy slapping and tapping on closer “Breakthrough” and the aptly titled “Tapestry” are a couple of obvious examples, and the entire record finds both Hunter and Van Larkins (literally) banging out percussive, groove-oriented parts… but Myriad is less about technique and more about composition and texture. Continue reading