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Various Artists

La Guitara: Gender Bending Strings

Review by Gary Hill

The brainchild of Patty Larkin, this compilation showcases women who excel at playing guitar. While there is no one particular style most of the music here is instrumental. As is generally the case with any various artists' compilation, some of the music is better than the other. The truth is, though, anyone who has an interest in hearing what is capable with guitar, in all sorts of varying types of music should really check this one out. According to Larkin, "the goal of La Guitara is to better define the contribution of women to the history of modern guitar." That's an admirable goal and the disc does much to accomplish it. More importantly, though, it's a very enlightening and often entertaining listening experience.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Wu Man - Invocation
This one should be a winner for fans of both international "world" music and ambient sounds. The Asian based music takes on ethereal and dramatic tones in this opening instrumental.
Sharon Lisbin - La Catedral: II Allegro Solemne
Those who like strong acoustic guitar work should eat this one up. This solo is an acoustic guitar showcase combining Latin and classical elements into an intriguing mélange that is both energized and beautiful.

Patty Larkin - Bound Brook
This comes in with a very traditional blues sound, but as the layers of slide come in, this takes more of a New Age, modern sound. This feels a little bit like the work of David Gilmour at times, but the really sedate end of his repertoire. It shifts towards a more classically dominated sound later and carries on in pretty sedate tones. Still the opening backdrop remains. This is one of the highlights of the CD.

Memphis Minnie - Let's Go To Town
This is cool down home blues with a great authentic sound. Picture Robert Johnson, but with more intricacies a better production and no vocals. This one is bouncy and fun.

Mimi Fox - Lady Byrd
Intricate acoustic jazz ramblings make up this cool track. This one makes you think of a smoky jazz club. It's one of my favorites on the disc. Its smooth jazz stylings are strong.

Kaki King - Kewpie Station
Still only on acoustic guitar, this has a strong, nearly progressive rock styling. It is another of my favorites here, and feels like it could be a guitar solo on an album from any number of prog rock outfits.
Ellen McLlwaine - Sidu (Grandmother)
This has a major Indian element to its sound. McLlwaine shows a real mastery of the style of music and her instrument. I have to say, though, the traditional Arabic styled vocals don't really work well for me. With all the instrumental tracks on the disc, I wish this had been one.
Badi Assad - Preludio E Toccatina
An acoustic classical guitar piece, this is well done, but not one of my favorites here.

Alex Houghton - The Bear
Now, this is more like it, this is a rather prog rock like arrangement, and a cool track. It also has elements of jazz and is one of the standouts on the CD.

Vicki Genfan - Joy
This one seems to combine neo-classical tones with folk and rock all in an acoustic guitar solo.

Muriel Anderson - Rumores De La Caleta
Another in neo-classical in style, this also has elements of Latin, flamenco guitar.

Rory Block - Guitar Ditty 1
A song with a very tasty bluesy slide sound, this is another winner. It reminds me a lot of some of Jimmy Page's acoustic blues guitar work with Led Zeppelin. My only complaint - it's too short.

Jennifer Batten - Whammy Damage
If you like '70's guitar gods like Rick Derringer and Ted Nugent or more recent ones in the vein of Yngwie Malmsteen, this one is proof positive that a woman can rise up to fret board superhero. This crunchy solo has that neoclassical texture common to that style of music and rocks out quite well.
Elizabeth Cotten - Wilson Rag
This is a fun, acoustic ragtime number. It's a mellow, but tasty way to end the album.
 
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