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Bluegrass Unlimited

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 out yet.

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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