Posts Tagged ‘Michael Hedges’

The Reinvention of Kaki King – Echoes Podcast

December 14, 2012

Hear the Podcast of Kaki King’s Echoes Interview

Kaki King in Echoes BLack Box

Kaki King in Echoes BLack Box

There’s little doubt that Kaki King has been the most high profile acoustic guitar player of the last decade.  Since her 2003 debut she’s recorded several albums, collaborated with musicians like The Goo Goo Dolls, scored films like Into the Wild with Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook and generally left most musicians gasping for breath in her wake.  She recently released her album Glow, and it’s yet another new direction for the peripatetic guitarist.

Kaki King has been in a buoyant mood lately.  The beyond petite guitarist smiles gently with her boyish brown haircut, holding her Ovation guitar. She’s had one of those life changes that seem pretty good.

“Yeah, I got married,” she reveals. “I met her after same sex marriage was legal in New York State.  And it changed a lot of things for me.  It  changed what I was looking for and what I thought was possible for me as far as stability and making, and protecting a family, and a lot of things.  And I didn’t know that would happen.  And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

617-AkrLI0L._SL500_AA300_You might be able to hear that change on Kaki King’s Glow.

“I was engaged when I made Glow and I didn’t know what stability would do for me because I was thriving on chaos for years and years,” she says.  “And I wrote a lot of songs.  And I didn’t know what would happen and it turns out that I’m doing even better work.”

Kaki King has come a long way since she was playing in New York City Subways.

“I miss playing in the subways,” she says wistfully.  “It’s been too long, about five years.”

Since her 2003 solo debut, Everybody Loves You, she’s rejected the roll of solo fingerstyle guitarist.  She played with her sound, adding vocals here, different musicians there.  Her experiments culminated in her 2010 album, Junior, made with a full rock band and often raging distortion.

“Sure I mean they’ve all been kind of sharp changes in direction,” she says.  “This record for me was partially about reconnecting with being a solo acoustic player and again, trying to push the envelope and see what was possible.”

There was a point where Kaki King was contemplating divorce.  Not from her new spouse, but from her guitar.

“It’s like being with a partner, I mean, for 29 years at this point,” she confesses.  “I played guitar and I was just evaluating my marriage to it.  I didn’t want to play.  That’s the truth; I just didn’t want to pick it up.  I just didn’t have that feeling anymore.  And I had to reestablish my relationship with it.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“I played,” she quickly responds.  “I forced myself.  I went on tour with a bunch of weird guitarists.  We did this “Guitar Freak Show”, so I created an environment in which if I wanted to, if we wanted to reconcile we could.  And it worked and I do love playing guitar.  I love it.”

Hear more of Kaki King’s interview including talking about her koto guitar and playing with the string quartet, Ethel, in the Echoes Podcast.

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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A Summer Solstice CD of the Month: Todd Boston’s Touched by the Sun.

May 31, 2012

Todd Boston’s Touched by the Sun is Echoes June CD of the Month

Hear an interview with Todd Boston Tuesday, 10/9/2012 on Echoes.

Todd Boston’s “Touched by the Sun”

In June, the month when the sun has unchallenged dominion, guitarist Todd Boston has released the perfect album for summer days. Touched by the Sun is a thematic suite centered on images of the solar orb and built around the global chamber sound that Boston has been working with for a few years. He has an Indian fusion duo with percussionist Ramesh Kannan called Urban Nature and he released a solo album, Alive, that was an Echoes CD of the Month in October 2010.  At that time he was already working with guitarist Will Ackerman, the founder of Windham Hill Records. Back then, I wrote that I wasn’t sure how much working with Ackerman would improve upon Alive.  The answer is, quite a bit.

A child of the Windham Hill generation, Boston heard seminal records by guitarists like Ackerman, Alex De Grassi and Michael Hedges on Echoes when he was growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs. Now he’s made a convincing statement to be considered in their ranks.  Ackerman brings in his posse of side musicians including cellist Eugene Friesen, bassists Tony Levin and Michael Manring and violinist Charlie Bisharat, allowing Boston to expand his eastern fusions to embrace Celtic, gypsy and chamber music in a sound of pastoral repose and gentle dances.  It’s Bisharat who brings the gypsy sound, wailing on tracks like “Sol Rising” and “The Brightest Night” with a free-form ecstatic brand of soloing.

Boston has adapted the techniques of his heroes, like the two-handed tapping of Hedges, as well as the ragas of Ali Akbar Khan, the Indian sarod master with whom he studied.  His  guitar playing often has Indian inflections and he also plays the dotar – kind of a baby sarod – to good effect especially on tracks like “Sol Rising.” Through the wonders of multi-tracking, he also plays flute on several tracks including “Full Moon” which carries a Celtic-suffused melody against Bisharat’s violin accents.

Boston earned nearly $25,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to fund the record, and you can hear every penny of it on this beautifully produced CD. Here’s one of several Kickstarter videos Boston made about his recording sessions with Will Ackerman.

Touched by the Sun sits comfortably in a world fusion landscape that goes back to The Paul Winter Consort, Shakti, Oregon and Ancient Future.  Ackerman’s influence on the impeccable, expansive sound and arrangements elevate Todd Boston out of the finger-style guitarists glut.

~© 2012 John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Hear an interview with Todd Boston Tuesday, 10/9/2012 on Echoes..

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The Best of Michael Hedges-1 of 20 Icons of Echoes

May 20, 2010

The Man Who Revolutionized Finger-style Guitar.

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Tonight, May 20, 2010, we feature Michael Hedges, #12 among 20 Icons of Echoes. All of his instrumental albums set the standard for modern acoustic guitar playing. Here are my favorites.

Five  Best Michael Hedges CDs, Plus One

1 Taproot

This is a middle period Hedges album and a conceptual work. It’s a musical biography, inspired by the symbology of the famed late mythologist, Joseph Campbell. The music is wide-ranging and features one of Hedges’ signature songs, the stroming assualt of “Ritual Path” as well as the sweetness of “Chava’s Song.”


I know purists might place this later on the list, but I always thought it was Hedges’ most perfectly conceived album. In addition to his wonderful guitar playing on tunes like “Ignition” it also has some beautiful arrangements, including Hedges playing flute and harmonica and Michael Manring on electric bass, that highlight him as a composer as much as a guitarist.

3- Aerial Boundaries

His second solo album, it has classic Hedges tracks like “Rickover’s Dream.” It also includes an experiment from his Peabody  Conservatory of Music days, “Spare Change.” You can be astounded by the complexity of “Menage a Trois” or the sweetness of his cover of Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush.”

4-Breakfast in the Field

This is the kind of debut that makes a musician a favorite for life.  It’s hard to believe Breakfast in the Field came out in 1981, nearly 30 years ago.  Breakfast in the Field was a shot across the bow of acoustic guitar albums with songs like “The Happy Couple,” and “Silent Anticipations.”

5-Live on the Double Planet

This album gives an inkling of the power Michael Hedges brought to his live performances. It features many of his best known tunes in definitive performances as well as covers of songs by Hendrix and The Beatles.  Yes, Michael sings on this one, but that wasn’t always such a bad thing.

PLUS ONE: Beyond Boundaries

I usually don’t put anthologies in these lists, but if I wanted to introduce somebody to the Hedge’s oeuvre, I’d probably go with Beyond Boundaries. And not because I wrote the liner notes. It’s all instrumental and features his best songs from across his first 4 studio albums as well as some live tracks recorded on Echoes. And I’m not recommending it for that reason either.

You can hear an interview with Michael Hedges tonight , May 20, on Echoes and see the complete list of 20 Icons of Echoes.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Forastiere, Antoine Dufour and Craig D’Andrea: An Invasion of CandyRats Guitarists

March 10, 2009
Forastiere at Echoes 2006

Forastiere at Echoes 2006

It was an international guitar morning here at Echoes as three virtuoso guitarists played live on the show.  Echoes has always been a home to finger-style guitarists.  Michael Hedges, Will Ackerman, Alex De Grassi, Kaki King and Preston Reed are among those who have graced the Echoes Living Room.  Today we had three players from three points in the world, Pino Forastiere from Italy, Antoine Dufour from Quebec and Craig D’Andrea from Connecticut.  They’re all on  Candy Rat Records, which, though you might not suspect it from the name, is the home to many of the best young finger-style musicians around.  Along with the Tompkins Square label, they’re leading the charge in new music for acoustic guitar.

The musicians are all post-Michael Hedges players, musicians who tap the bang their instruments as often as they pluck them.  But they all integrate this technique into intricate and evocative  music.  Why Not? Forastiere’s compositions, heard on his new CD, Live, are woven journeys that sound like he’s having a five way conversation with his guitar. We play a lot of musicians who employ digital looping in their performance, often setting up grooves and ostinatos, but Forastiere does it without electronic enhancements, weaving circuitous, contrapuntal melodies simultaneously over ostinato patterns.  You can see how he does it on the accompanying DVD to Live, or in this YouTube video.

Forastiere has grown a Lincolnesque goattee since this was shot.

Existence Antoine Dufour likes to play percussion and melody simultaneously, often rapping rhythms with his finger nails and fist on the guitar’s body while executing finger-ballets on the strings.  You can hear his music on his latest CD, Existence, but he’s another guitarist you have to see to believe.

BTW, the bandana isn’t a fashion statement. He uses it to dampen resonance on the headstock and to wipe his sweaty palms.

Getting Used to Isolation Craig D’Andrea is the youngest of the three artists.  A scant 24 years old, technical expertise seems to ratchet up exponentially with each succeeding generation.  I kept trying to hear the Emo influences he mentioned but he seemed to be pure bred Hedges-influenced to me.  His new album, Getting Used to Isolation is a step forward in his development as a composer.

I recently got an email from a listener who, after insulting me, requested “ “less motonotous [sic] guitar show-off finger work.”

This listener wanted more electronic music, but I think they’re not hearing the elements that these players and electronic music share. Finger- style guitar has evolved immensely in the last 30 years.  Leo Kottke was the leading edge of the old school if you will, but players like Michael Hedges and Don Ross (who Dufour and D’Andrea both cite extensively) altered the paradigm with their tapping approach.  They are the second wave of acoustic guitarists who are post-electronic music and you can hear that influence spinning through acoustic guitarists  more and more each year.  No one in this crew cited electronic music, but I think its influence in terms of cycling patterns and interwoven melody lines is there nevertheless.

These three guitarists are currently touring together with gigs in Philadelphia at the Tin Angel, Wednesday March 11 as as well as performances in New York, Cambridge, MA and  Bridgeport, CT.

Forastiere’s Echoes’ concert is already scheduled to air on Echoes March 24.  Antoine Dufour and Craig D’Andrea will soon follow.

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

Echo Location: John Gregorius “Heaven and Earth”

November 25, 2008

Heaven & Earth On his latest album, Heaven and EarthJohn Gregorius finds a meeting ground between Windham Hill fingerstyle guitar and ambient music.  

listen-icons-16x162 (You can hear an Audio Version of this blog, with music.)

Progressive rock was known for it’s synthesizer and organ orchestrations and furious electric guitar runs, but a lot of musicians were attracted to a more pastoral side of that sound heard in the acoustic guitars of Mike Oldfield in Tubular Bells and Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips from Genesis. One of those musicians was John Gregorius. He’s a rock refugee who has played in a bunch of Southern California bands, but he went for a different approach on his debut, Heaven and Earth. It’s a sound that mixes ambient textures, world music touches and finger-style guitar.

No matter how elaborate his arrangements might be, the songs on Heaven and Earth begin on acoustic guitar.  Gregorius cites Genesis, but you can also hear the influence of Windham Hill guitarists like Will Ackerman and Michael Hedges in his playing.  He has a few purely solo tracks on the disc, like “Sackcloth to Ashes,” just to show the coordinates of ground zero.  Here’s a video of a solo version of “Heaven and Earth”

If this was just another acoustic solo guitar album, it would’ve been pleasant listening, but Heaven and Earth rises above when Gregorius’s acoustic tunes are set in ambient landscapes. A song like “Mercy” is based on finger-style guitar, but the lead is taken by a country-tinged electric over a Brian Eno-style soundscape that could’ve come off his Apollo album.

John Gregorius is a musician of eclectic tastes, but with a unified vision. You can tell he’s listening to acoustic players, but also has his fingers in rock and ambient music. A track called “Secret to Light” sets plaintive acoustic guitar in an atmosphere of growling, shoegazer rock textures and rolling drums played with mallets that come straight off the launch pad of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”

Folk, country, blues and world music are incorporated into John Gregorius’ playing. On “Pearls of Great Price,” he creates a meeting of Ambient Americana and Indian music, with udu drum and a guitar lead that sits between languid country blues and Indian raga.

John Gregorius’s new album, Heaven and Earth is out on Spotted Peccary records. It’s our Echoes CD of the Month for December. It will be featured on Monday’s Echoes broadcast. This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.                      listen-icons-16x161 (You can hear an Audio Version of this blog, with music.)

John Dilibert0 ((( echoes )))

Echo Location: Ronn McFarlane’s 21st Century Lute

September 3, 2008

It’s not your ancient Renaissance lute anymore when Ronn McFarlane creates new music for an ancient instrument.

(You can hear an Audio Version of this blog, with music.)

Songs from the Labyrinth (Music by John Dowland) In 2006, Sting put out an album of tunes by 16th century composer John Dowland called Songs from the Labyrinth. Sting not only sang Dowland’s songs, but played a renaissance instrument called the lute. He plucked it convincingly, unless you happen to be a virtuoso renaissance lutenist.

Lutenist Ronn McFarlane at Echoes

Lutenist Ronn McFarlane at Echoes

Ronn McFarlane: I think he has fairly modest abilities on the lute but he does what he needs to do, and the most intricate lute playing tends to be done by his partner, Edin Karamozov, and he’s, you know, quite a fine player and quite brilliant.

Ronn McFarlane has been playing the lute for over 3 decades, much of it with the Baltimore Consort. What appealed to him in Sting’s music was less the Dowland pieces, and more, Sting’s own music.

Ronn McFarlane: One of my favorites was actually one of Sting’s original pieces, “Fields of Gold.” When they arranged that for two lutes and voice, I thought it was a haunting arrangement, quite beautiful, and I would have loved to have heard more contemporary music played on the lute.

So Ronn McFarlane decided to create his own repertoire. He’s been writing original compositions for about a decade and collected several of his tunes on an album called Indigo Road.

Ronn McFarlane-Indigo Road

Ronn McFarlane-Indigo Road

If you listen close to McFarlane’s music, you’ll hear techniques like harmonics and glissandos that weren’t part of the renaissance arsenal. Ronn got some of them from his days as a rocker, but also from listening to contemporary acoustic guitarists like the late Michael Hedges. Like Michael Hedges, Ronn McFarlane is an eclectic. Celtic influences infuse some tunes, while on others he sounds like a bluegrass player.

Ronn McFarlane isn’t ready to give up his classical career with the Baltimore Consort, but he has opened up new possibilities for an instrument that, with the exception of Sting, hasn’t seen much new music for a few hundred years.

There will be a full interview with Ronn McFarlane Wednesday 9/03 and you can hear Ronn McFarlane playing live on Echoes on Tuesday, 9/16. More Info on the Echoes website

This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music, heard on Wednesday mornings on 88.5 WXPN Philadephia and other enlightened Echoes affiliate stations.

(You can hear an Audio Version of this blog, with music.)

John Diliberto ((( Echoes )))

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