Harvey Reid,
Guitar Voyages
(Woodpecker, 2000)

So why isn't Harvey Reid a star? Why isn't Harvey Reid filling stadiums where people sit in hushed silence, listening to him draw sounds out of 12- and 6-string guitars, the like of which has never been heard before? Why isn't Harvey Reid's brilliant musicianship and creativity more admired than Britney Spears' whiny nasality or 'N Sync's appalling mediocrity or Eminem's angry white-boy crap-rap?

Drag me off my soapbox, mama, but every now and then I get just a tad peeved at the injustice of the artistic universe. Reid has more talent in two of his darting, dodging fingers than the above-mentioned "artists" have in their combined bodies times a hundred, and 'tain't right! Needless to say, Guitar Voyages is the best acoustic guitar album I've heard in a loooong time.

"Racing the Storm," which starts the CD, is a race indeed. Reid's fingers never stop moving, and mine ached afterwards in sympathy. "Lost Lullaby" is ethereally beautiful. The guitar rings like chimes, and the use of harmonics at the end is literally breathtaking. "The French Quarter Concerto" encompasses all of the best things about Chet Atkins' fingerstyle playing, and I can imagine hearing this on one of Atkins' late '50s albums. It's delicate, dancing, and perfect.

Reid turns from his original compositions to "Life Is Like a Mountain Railroad," and the traditional song becomes an anthem in his hands, providing great beauty as well as great virtuosity (as if that was ever in doubt). His three-part "Norway Suite" is next: "The Waterfall" offers suitably lovely runs; "Across the Fjord" is slow, thoughtful and melodic; and "Farewell to Vikedal" shows off Reid's ability to turn his guitar into an entire chorus, yet rich with distinctive solo voices.

Reid turns to 12-string for "Pegasus," and gives a jaw-droppingly gorgeous performance. His liner notes explain his techniques, but even as clearly as he outlines them, they sound utterly impossible to anyone who is not Harvey Reid.

"Uncloudy Day" is another traditional tune, and hearing Reid play it makes you wish that every bluegrass musician had his ability. Fat chance. His "Scotland Suite" made me long for the highlands: "Requiem for the Last Minstrel" sounds bagpipe-like, with a drone underneath and melody on top; "The Speyside Jig" is raucous and rowdy; and "The Hills of Torridon" is pensive, slow and moving.

"Fluf's Vacation" is a cute and playful paean to Reid's Maine coon cat, and "Miss the Mississippi" gives a plaintive and wistful reading to the old Jimmie Rodgers song. The CD ends with a brief and tender "Skye Boat Song."

Throughout the album, Reid proves himself a god-like player, a superb composer and a matchless interpreter. The recorded sound is pristine, the Reid-penned notes fascinating. I cannot think of a greater solo guitar album.

[ by Chet Williamson ]