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Mark O'Leary: Awakening

John Eyles By

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By turns, Mark O'Leary continues to be impressive, baffling, infuriating and intriguing. At his best, he is without parallel as a guitarist—impressively inventive and sounding unlike anyone else. Here, a track such as "First Light is a prime example; unhurried, reflective and mesmerising, full of gently bent notes, it creates its own beguiling soundworld. Likewise, the title track, "Awakening, is taken at a stately pace and benefits enormously from the time allowed for it to evolve.

Infuriatingly, at other times—on "MTF, for example—O'Leary opts for speed-fingered playing to the gallery. While fine in moderation, this approach is less distinctive and is no match for his more contemplative music. Happily, on this album, the balance is strongly in favour of his more laid-back music (in contrast to his last release, Closure, where that balance was reversed). This is due in no small part to the presence of Steve Swallow and Pierre Favre, who provide O'Leary with perfect foils for his playing; the bassist is especially adept at moving to the fore to function as a lead player, while still acting as rhythm support.

Intriguingly, like most of his releases to date, these are old recordings, dating from September 2000; Mark O'Leary has new recordings in the can, but so far they have not seen the light of day. If O'Leary's performance at the Vortex last June (with bassist Joe Williamson and drummer Mark Sanders) is any guide, he has moved on considerably and is experimenting more; his use of e-bow to sustain notes being particularly intriguing. His new recordings should be well worth checking out. Meanwhile, this is a release to savour.

Track Listing: Bello Corazon; Last Light; First Light; In A Moment; Awakening; Kymer; Melting; MTF; Paths; Prelude.

Personnel: Mark O'Leary: electric guitar, twelve-string acoustic guitar; Steve Swallow: bass guitar; Pierre Favre: percussion.

Title: Awakening | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Leo Records

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