CD Reviews: Editors' October Favorites

October 22, 2013
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Vieux Farka Touré
Mon Pays

Celebrating the musical heritage of his homeland Mali (Mon Pays translates as “my nation”), the renowned guitarist and vocalist returns to his roots in the company of some of that war-torn nation’s greatest artists, including kora virtuoso Mamadou Sidiki Diabate, whose father collaborated with Vieux’s father, the great Ali Farka Touré. This is a spectacular album, brimming with intricate rhythms, enchanting melodies, deeply soulful vocals, and consummate musicianship. The guitar work is immaculate, of course, paying homage to tradition while at the same time embodying a contemporary spirit. Six Degrees. —Barry Cleveland



Earl Klugh
Hand Picked

It’s widely known in the industry that Earl Klugh is not only a great player, but also one of the nicest cats you’ll ever meet. His friendly nature is on display on his latest release, which sees Klugh playing duets with some of his friends: Vince Gill, Bill Frisell, and Jake Shimabukuro. Klugh sounds great on his own, with his uncanny ability to play lilting melodies over deep changes in fine form. But the collaborations are simply awesome. He and Frisell do a breathtaking version of “Blue Moon.” The duet with Vince Gill on “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” takes elegant simplicity up several notches, and Jake gives Klugh a run for his nylon-string money on the best version of “Hotel California” since The Big Lebowski. Concord. —Matt Blackett


Richard Pinhas
Desolation Row

From the opening onslaught of “North,” the French guitarist and electronics innovator (who also holds a PhD in philosophy from the Sorbonne) sonically rails against what he terms the “teknofascism” currently ravaging Europe. Armed with a modified ’Roland GR-303 guitar and a sophisticated effects and looping system, and conspiring with six likeminded audio provocateurs (including guitarists Oren Ambarchi and Noel Akchoté), Pinhas generates wave after wave of dense, droning, and darkly foreboding noise sculptures that are often as starkly beautiful as they are abrasive and disturbing. Cuneiform. —Barry Cleveland



Rival Sons
Head Down

It’s easy to compare Rival Sons to a lot of classic rock bands—the echoes of Zep, Free, Purple, Grand Funk, and even the Zombies are readily apparent. The good news is, guitarist Scott Holiday is totally carrying on the tradition of awesome tones, weighty riffs, and clever lines that his influences pioneered several decades ago. The sinewy lines of “Keep On Swinging,” the mellow acoustic and dreamy trem of “Jordan,” and the seat-of-the-pants pentatonics of “Three Fingers” are only a small sampling of the rock offerings this record brings. Earache. —Matt Blackett




Ben Monder
Hydra

A rarefied few guitarists can claim to have conceived and manifested a genuinely original sound and approach to their instrument, and equally few composers are able to produce works of astonishing harmonic depth and technical complexity that are at the same time alluring and accessible to less-learned listeners. On his fifth album, Monder, whose extraordinary right-hand technique alternates between classical-style and flatpicking, continues to explore fluid, continuously evolving arpeggios that cascade into fascinating formations, sometimes folding in on themselves like sonic singularities. His single-line work is also profound, here blending beautifully with the voices of Theo Bleckmann, Gian Slater, and Martha Cluver. Sublime. Sunnyside. —Barry Cleveland


Dave Lazarus
The Rock Monsters Guide to Playing Guitar

This instructional book offers a fun and engaging way to learn the basics and beyond when tackling the 6-string. Don’t be misled by the cartoon monsters—this isn’t just for kids. Anyone who digs into this book will get clear and concise lessons on tuning, chords, scales, arpeggios, picking techniques, and much more, plus cool bio/history lessons on great players like Hendrix, Van Halen, Clapton, etc. Anyone who has found instructional books boring, confusing, or lacking rock attitude should check this out. It’s a cool spin on the age-old question of how to learn guitar. therockmonsters.com. —Matt Blackett

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