May 1995 by DJM
Who wouldn't enjoy this album? Hmm, that's a tough one. You can't say anyone
who appreciates beautiful guitar playing wouldn't love Harvey Reid's work
here. And you can't expect anyone with an appreciation for great folk and
country music melodies to do anything but eagerly listen to every song on
this CD. Even though it's totally instrumental, the lack of singing and
harmony isn't going to turn anyone away from this project. There must be
someone who wouldn't like "Chestnuts", but I haven't figured it
Harvey Reid, for those of you who haven't heard the man's music before,
is a supremely talented multi-instrumentalist with a rare gift for recording
solo albums that don't sound like solo albums. Recording in a "what
you hear is what you get" direct-to-digital manner, Reid not only plays
great fingerstyle, slide, and flatpicking guitar, autoharp and banjo, he
manages to capture those sounds on tape with a presence and character few
other artists manage.
Never one to let hot licks or flashy technique interfere with the musician's
ultimate responsibility to communicate an emotional message through his
instrument, Reid plays gorgeous, well-crafted music here that grows and
grows through repeated listenings.
On Stephen Foster's immortal "Hard Times Come Again No More",
Reid manages to capture a bagpipe like drone between the 6 and 12-string
guitars used here. [actually only a 12-string was used] On the opening of
"Scarborough Fair", he delicately weaves fingerpicked guitar fretted
and harmonic notes into a gorgeous tapestry of sound, then moves on for
more challenging sounds intertwining his guitar with Brian Silber's almost
demonic viola playing before finally swinging back into a gentler, romantic
rendition of the tune that is truly affecting and lovely.
Unlike most of his previous outings, Reid does bring in outside musicians
on several tunes here. Silber adds his gorgeous viola to three tunes and
flatpicking guitar champion Dan Crary sits in on "Grandfather's Clock"
[and "Bill Bailey"]. Moondi Klein from the Seldom Scene and Chesapeake
plays guitar on "Jesse James" and "Banks of the Ohio."
Throughout this CD, the instrumental sound approaches perfection, a real
tribute to Reid's ability to capture true acoustic sounds on digital tape
using nothing more than two top-quality microphones and a 2-track digital
recorder. No overdubs or multitracking get in the way of this great sound.
At times, the clarity is to stunning it sounds as if Reid were playing live
in your home in a personal concert.
"Chestnuts" isn't bluegrass, but it reflects the entire dimension
of American stringed instrument folk music from fiddle tunes to the popular
tunes of the day before mass media and pop culture. This CD belongs in the
collection of everyone who loves the sound of acoustic instruments played
with understated taste and elegant tone. Highly recommended.
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