Some music is meant to be scrutinized, analyzed, and dissected to determine the artistic merit of its structure and composition. Each chord shift and time signature is noted for processing, every nuance is mentally "jotted down" to future study. Then there is other music that is simply meant to be ABSORBED... this type of music requires no meticulous dissection; it is the music which takes action upon the listener, not vice versa. It is not the music that speaks to you, but the Muse itself. Classical guitarist Jeff Gower's debut collection of unaccompanied compositions Lakeside Drive is one such piece of music. It almost defies analysis, as the music itself has a tendency to release the mind of all rational thought processes, and instead places the listener in an almost meditative, relaxed, and serene state.
Lakeside Drive is a selection of original compositions that Mr. Gower has collected dating back to 1975. These songs are exclusively performed on the nylon classical guitar - an instrument with which the performer seems to definitely be at home. Although the CD starts off with an upbeat number titled "Open for Business," most of the 25 tracks tend to fall on the more gentle and breezy side of the musical spectrum. One particular stand out is "The White Water-Lily," which is a song written in dedication to the French poet Stephane Mallarme - Gower combines an almost Spanish fingering style with the use of simultaneous notes a half-step or a step next to each other to achieve a hauntingly beautiful sound. The track "L's L's" (Hey, I don't name 'em - I just review 'em), is an excellent example of how the use of harmonics can be used to subtly carry the rhythm of a composition without sounding gimmicky. As one listens to Lakeside Drive, it becomes increasingly obvious that Gower treats his guitar almost as an extra appendage as he effortlessly plays multiple melodies in unison at times creating a "guitar orchestra" type sound.
If I could find any fault with Lakeside Drive , it would be that while the guitar playing is definitely proficient, it is not terribly distinctive. Fortunately, Gower keeps the songs short enough (around 2 or 3 minutes) so that they stay refreshing and avoid becoming repetitive and tedious. So, if you're looking for a guitarist that will blow you away with his chops and astonish you with innovative playing, Jeff Gower may not be for you. However, if you're looking for some music to listen to as you sip on a hot cup of coffee in your easy chair while staring out the window at a sunny early-Autumn Sunday morning, then I can't think of better accompaniment. This is music to exhale by...
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