Listen: Mining guitar gems

The best of the new acoustic guitar releases

Various Artists

“Imaginational Anthem Volume Two”

(Tompkins Square)

The ghost of steel-string master John Fahey looms large over this collection of solo guitar and banjo tunes. James Blackshaw uses fingerpicked blues to generate the majestic “River of Heaven,” Peter Lang’s “Future Shot at the Rainbow” evokes Mississippi John Hurt, and Fred Gerlach conjures some Leo Kottke-esque flash for “Devil’s Brew.” But it’s Jack Rose, interlacing bold chords with solemn melody, who sounds the most like Fahey. Don’t miss the rare live recording of Robbie Basho’s “Kowaka D’Amour;” it’s a gem of a study in harmonics.

James Blackshaw

“O True Believers”

(Important Records)

A contributor on “Imaginational Anthem,” Blackshaw’s 45-minute solo disc covers intriguing meditational territory in four tunes. Blackshaw uses a12-string guitar, harmonium and other instruments to dig into Indian ragas as well as John Fahey territory. His Indian-inspired works are a soothing drone with dripping guitar lines; the folk piece “Spiraling Skeleton Memorial” is a haunting minor key workout.


(Kind of Blue)

Once the partner of Vinicius de Moraes, Brazilian guitarist and pianist Toquinho has been recording on his own for 20 years. The material on “Acoustic” pays tribute to his past with Moraes and Chico Buarque, celebrates his affinity for Jobim and throws in a bit of Johann Sebastian Bach for good measure. Early on, the album feels a little smooth-jazz; however, at track 6 (“A Banda”), it begins to reveal a soulful guitarist with a soothing tenor, and the string and percussion accompaniment grows lighter. Back-to-back sambas “Samba de Orly” and “Tristeza” are sultry and charming as is his bossa interpretation of Jorge Ben Jor’s Afro-Brazilian classic “Mais que nada.”

Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch & Fats Kaplan

“Lost John Dean”

The follow-up to last year’s “You Can’t Save Everybody” is the finest front-yard jam disc since the Wood Brothers’ debut earlier this year. Drawing on old-time country, folk and the gentler side of the blues, Kane and Welch deliver story songs that sound as old as the hills. Take note: “Them Wheels Don’t Roll Anymore” may be the best song ever written about a broke-down car plopped in the yard. Acoustic guitar is the backbone on every tune here, but it’s the other instrument–accordion, banjo, octave mandolin, oud–that give each one its texture.

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