Guitarist Kimo West (aka Jim West) is probably best known as the guitarist in musical satirist "Weird Al" Yankovic's band. Anyone familiar with Yankovic's music knows that is an eclectic gig, but West is even more eclectic on his own. He jokingly describes this albuma sequel to Guitar Stories: Slack Key & Beyond (Westernmost Records, 2016)as a "Slack Key, New Age, Jazz, Funk, Celtic, Americana and Indian Classical mashup." Crazy as that sounds, it is about right; West uses slack key open guitar tunings for all of his main guitar parts, which are named and spelled out in the liner notes. Try them at home! But the music demonstrates how stylistically flexible they can be.
"Mele Ahiahi-Evening Song" opens the set with a gentle evocation of the evening. Despite the Hawaiian title, it has more of a general Americana sound, with the unique coloration of West's pedal steel imitation in the accompaniment. "Windward" has more of a band sound, led by Charlie Bisharat's violin, with a fine Jimmy Johnson fretless bass solo as well. In fact, the whole album includes a larger cast of guest musicians than its predecessor. "Birimintingo" is a term from West African kora playing. West employs two slack-key tuned guitars to create a remarkable emulation of that instrument's sound, as well as a West African feel.
"Tin Roof Shing-A-Ling" sounds like a rural village party, with a funky feel aided by Ben Powell's violin and Dan Lutz's upright bass (both players also contributed to the first album). The beautiful ballad "Moonbow" features a singing Moog guitar part (not a synthesizer, but an electric guitar with unique sustain and filter possibilities) accompanied by a string orchestra and cellist Simone Vitucci (another veteran of the previous record). "The Lydian Sea" takes inspiration from Indian classical music. The picture is completed by Cenk Erdogan's fretless guitar (sounding like a sarod) and two Indian percussionists. West's only solo guitar track, the slack key blues "Sugar Cane Blues" demonstrates his potent storytelling skills without accompaniment.
It is hard to imagine a fan of finger-style guitar playing who would not find something to like here. West is in full command as guitarist and composer, crafting a diverse series of musical portraits, with the aid of a large cast of empathetic guest players. Here's hoping for a shorter wait until the next installment.
Mele Ahiahi-Evening Song; Windward; Birimintingo; Paniolo Starlight; Tin Roof Shing-A-Ling; Moonbow; Green Islands; The Lydian Sea; Sugar Cane Blues; Soul Motion.
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