Following the passing of guitarist and co-leader Nick Webb in 1998, Greg Carmichael has decided to move forward, retooling the band with a new guitarist/co-leader John Parsons and several other new collaborators. (Parsons produced several early AA albums and also provided some supporting guitar.) The result is a little more of a "band" feel; the centerpiece is still the two guitarists, but keyboards and the occasional trumpet or sax push the band in new directions. Here, acoustic guitars, piano, and percussion co-exist almost seemlessly with computer-driven backgrounds and percussion. The result is genuine and natural, with little condescension to fad or formula.
The band achieves a nice balance of staying true to the Acoustic Achemy roots while also introducing new elements. For example, on "Kidstuff" there are touches of kids' voices (natural and electronically altered), sax and piano solos, and a zippy background horn section. For added variety, two of the program's more memorable tunes, "Big Sky Country" and "Trail Blazer" (which are new but somehow seem familiar already), were re-recorded in Nashville with some of that city's top session players, achieving a more country-fied feel with dobro and harmonica. Both versions of each tune are included.
Good compositions, sparkling clean musicianship, and nice variety within the contemporary jazz framework combine to make a thoroughly competent and enjoyable addition to Acoustic Alchemy's already impressive discography.
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