Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli

By: Dennis Cook

Solo acoustic guitar can be a haunting, mesmerizing, even spiritual thing. One person, two hands, six strings and a wooden body that hums to life. For many young musical explorers (this writer included), one of the first steps away from the mainstream is often the discovery of the inviting but utterly alien sound of Leo Kottke's 6- and 12- String Guitar (1971) or the "violent acoustic" guitar of Michael Hedges on Aerial Boundaries (1985). These are gateway albums, vinyl enzymes that help one digest the tougher meat of Sandy Bull, John Fahey, Robbie Basho and other acoustic guitar magicians.

Once again, Numero Group has unearthed a treasure trove of largely unknown jewels, this time focused on solo acoustic guitarists. Guitar Soli is the second volume in Numero's Wayfaring Strangers series, which began in 2006 with the superb, waifish, Joni-esque compilation Ladies of the Canyon. Soli is equally revelatory, 14 cuts of hyper-obscure primo music that only possessed record hounds like Numero could bring to the table. While Daniel Hecht, Mark Lang and Ted Lucas may not have the name recognition of Fahey, Hedges, et al. their work holds up against these masters, continually revealing the nuances and ringing pleasure hiding in steel strings. Each artist is represented by a single track from albums often printed in tiny double-digit batches decades ago. Without exception, each is a little world of its own, a shimmering intersection of Western and Eastern influences that thrives with focused tenderness or violent punch, but always moving and glimmering in a way that's impossible to ignore. By nature, solo guitar music requires a patient listener prepared to take the trip several times before they catch all the landmarks and tributaries. That said, if you dig any of the masters of this genre you're in for a massive treat with Guitar Soli.

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[Published on: 3/28/08]

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