Eric Tingstad
& Nancy Rumbel,
Acoustic Garden
(Narada, 2002)

I appreciate musicians who know what they want and how to achieve it. Eric Tingstad and Nancy Rumbel have set out to create harmony and serenity, and they found it in their Acoustic Garden. Such balanced arrangements must take a great deal of effort and practice, but it's impossible to know that by hearing them. Every tune seems to just happen, with no hint of effort from its makers.

While there's no great emotional variance in "Acoustic Garden," there's enough musical experimentation to keep it from being dull background music. There's a slight Celtic accent to "Shamrock," the barest Texas twang in "San Antonio." "Havana" almost manages to boogie the album out of its peaceful groove. Despite the changes in style, the songs blend into each so smoothly it's hard to remember that they are different songs, and not different moments in a suite.

All the musicians do fine work, achieving the calm and clarity they intend. But for this listener, Rumbel's oboe and English horn are the stars of the piece. They give Acoustic Garden an extra weight of atmosphere often lacking from acoustic ensembles. Acoustic Garden isn't a genre-bender; this is meditative music, meant for reflection and calm moments and lemonade on the porch. It's a fine example of its kind, accessible and complex enough to bear repeated listenings.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 15 February 2003

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