John Hasbrouck,
Ice Cream
(Ruthless Rabbit, 2002)

John Hasbrouck is undoubtedly a dedicated guitarist. His debut CD features his nimble fingers on the strings of nine different guitars during the 20 tracks.

But, while applauding the variety of guitars he cherishes in his collection and his unquestioned ability to play them, I don't find Hasbrouck's rather thin, understated vocal style to my taste. The album is titled Ice Cream, a dish that sends some into raptures and leaves others cold. Hasbrouck presents a multi-flavoured platter -- blues, jazz standards, movie soundtracks, originals written by his friends and country favourites. I quite liked his arrangement of "As Time Goes By," which he plays on his Guild F47, but didn't warm to his pacy, eccentric version of "House of the Rising Sun."

There's some truly nifty finger work on his own work, "Fragment from an Unfinished Requiem for Blind Joe Death," one of the handful of tracks that is more than three minutes long, played on his Martin D76L. If that's a fragment, it shows promise for the rest -- if it exists. The practice at gunpoint, as he puts it, of Catfish Stephenson's "I've been Drinkin' All Night Long" paid off, too, but the guy on the CD cover in that hat doesn't fit the skeedledaddin' drinking image, somehow! The arrangement of "Cry Me a River" didn't quite pull it off, the guitar somehow unsettling the balance of the tune, too strong when one expected less, given it was an attempt to encapsulate Julie London's version.

The final track, which he admits to being melancholy, almost sent me to sleep, but in my semi-somnolent state I kept hearing a familiar tune within the chords that eludes me yet. It's seemingly aimless meanderings are pleasantly relaxing, however, and it brings the album nicely to its conclusion.

I'm probably just not au fait enough with the overall style to fully appreciate Hasbrouck's talents. I'm partial to some acoustic guitar, enjoy jazz and blues, but with a couple of exceptions, his eclectic choice of material yet fails to tempt me. I'm not fond enough of Ice Cream to ask for a second helping!

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 10 October 2003

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