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Six Strings North of the Border, Vol. 2
(Borealis, 2002)

A follow-up CD to the first volume, this compilation, produced by Bill Garrett, collects 16 tracks of top-flight Canadian acoustic guitarists. As might be expected, it's quite a mixed bag, but each track has its own treats, and acoustic fans should be tickled by the results.

Terry Tufts' "Dorval's Descent" is a delightfully bizarre lead-off with Tufts playing superlative bottleneck, followed by the Mark Atkinson Trio's swinging "Frederic's Closet," full of twisty rhythms and fine flatpicking. Art Turner takes us into another dimension altogether with his "Invitation to Circumstance." He's an entire symphony orchestra in one instrumentalist. Zubot & Dawson's "Wedding Song" is a rollicking blend of guitars (including the Weissenborn, that most vocal of the ilk), fiddle and mandolin.

Alex Houghton's "Dear Peace" provides the CD's first mixed blessing. While her guitar work is excellent, it's smothered with so much synthetic fiddle choir that it lends too much artifice to the sound. David Rogers (stepson of the late Canadian folk icon Stan Rogers) gives an impeccably clean and bright reading of "Dallas Rag," and Jon Park Wheeler presents the single most beautiful track on the CD, "Reverie." The melody is simply sublime.

Dave MacIsaac does a nice job with a bouncy set of jigs, and James Cohen provides some more variety with his lovely Spanish-tinged composition, "The Wind." Martin Posen's "Django Townshend" is a driving, take-no-prisoners tune, and Jerry Reed's "Steeplechase Lane" gets a fine reading from Craig Brown. The CD ends with a full and rich "Rose of Allendale" from Bob MacLean. Among the other excellent guitarists are Michael Jerome Brown, Kristin Sweetland, Colin Linden and D'Arcy Wickham.

There's not a bad track in this bunch of gems from north of the border, where there's some dandy picking that shouldn't be ignored. Guitar fanciers are highly advised not to miss it.

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 17 January 2004

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