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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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