Featuring seven-string guitar master Charlie Hunter, keyboardist extraordinaire Erik Deutsch, and locked-in pocket-humper Tony Mason on drums, Baboon Strength (released September 8 and available digitally on reapandsow) finds these gifted individuals working as a real band, supporting one another, building bridges across at times strange waters. Where past efforts have found Hunter performing wild acrobatics on his custom made guitar, here he trades virtuosity for restraint and taste. Often playing more straightforward rhythm or lead work, Hunter leaves plenty of room for Deutsch's wobbling keys, gurgling organ and freaked-out Echoplex to grind against the groove-heavy foundation. Most of these compositions are fairly grounded: a slow burning jazz number ("Difford-Tillbrook"), a funky Meters-esque organ romp ("Porter-Hayes"), an ill advised dance-trance track ("Welcome To Frankfurt"), a nice blues progression with pensive guitar ("Fine Corinthian Leather") and the adventurous title track which devolves into a beautiful sonic mess, which I'm pretty sure includes bagpipes. Save for said title track, if anything, Hunter plays it a bit safe here. While it's a pleasure to hear him evolve in terms of interacting with others and creating a real dynamic between beating hearts, it's his fifteen-finger fret work and double-mind bass-lead guitar playing that have already made Charlie Hunter a legend, and in the end, that's what folks are paying for. However, when taken in the context of an album versus the live arena, this is the place for Hunter to explore these other musical desires. His blinding brilliance can easily be lost in the world of studio trickery, so it's on a record where we can relish his band dynamic, but on stage, we best still see those fingers flying.
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