DIRTY LINEN MAGAZINE
April 1991 by Jim Lee
I can think of no other folk or acoustic artist who has used the digital Compact
Disc format as successfully as Harvey Reid. Anyone who has doubts about how
good a correctly recorded CD can sound should listen to either of these two
recordings. A cleaner, crisper,warm "live in your living room sound"
would be hard to find. In fact, a large part of both discs were actually recorded
in his cottage on the coast of Maine. (Those interested in the details should
read Reid's article on home recording in the March/April issue of Acoustic Guitar.)
Both of these discs run about 72 minutes and most of the music is direct-to-master
without splices or overdubs.
Of course, a great sounding, long running recording is pointless unless the
music is of equally high standard. One listen to either of these two lays that
worry to rest.
Among the 21 tracks on Solo Guitar Sketchbook are assorted fiddle tunes, rags,
blues, hymns, sea songs, both traditional and dtandards, written and arranged
for solo 6- and 12-string and slide guitar. He comes up with a recording that
is comfortable to listen to, one that flows easliy from a traditional to a blues
to a classical piece. What sets Reid apart from other guitarists and what I
find so appealing is not so much his technical brilliance (he's won a number
of awards and taught guitar on a university level) but his affinity for the
different traditional styles of music he plays. An example of this is when you
check the credits only to find the tunes you thought were traditional are actually
his. This is one of my favorite guitar albums, and one that anyone who enjoys
good guitar music would like.
Overview, Reid's latest release, is just that- an overview of his music and
his various recordings. Among the 9 songs and 10 instrumentals are seven new
releases, six re-recordings and only six re-issues. While this may be taken
as a sampler of his music, it stands on its own as a recorded work. As in Solo
Guitar Sketchbook, his guitar playing is an inventive as it is flawless. He
also gets in a trad tune on mandolin, two on six-string banjo, and three that
feature his autoharp playing.
Perhaps because of his fine guitar work, his ability as a songwriter has been
overlooked. That's unfortunate because he's very good at composing songs, especially
ones that have a melancholy feel to them. His "Restless Man", written
for Lowell George, is hauntingly played on the metal Dobro, capturing the despair
of George's life and his longing for the freedom of the road. His playing of
Woody Guthrie's "Vigilante Man" is full of menace, as is his own blues-based
"Cryin' Shame". Not all his writing is so gloomy- the opening track
"All or Nothing" is a fine up tempo love song, and "Johnny the
Fisherman" sounds very traditional.
I also have to note the excellent packaging of these two CD's. The covers are
attractive, all the tracks have notes (sometimes very humorous), all the backing
musicians are credited, as is the ancestry of his instruments and the circumstances
of the recordings.
It's a mystery to me why this man's music isn't better known. So do yourself
(and Harvey) a favor and buy both of these. You won't regret it.
DIRTY LINEN April 1990.
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