|Dimensions||21 × 1.5 × 16 cm|
It’s no surprise that the prestigious Black Rose Acoustic Society in Colorado USA describes Australian guitarist, Nick Charles, as “a world class stylist and composer”. His dazzling, melodic fingerpicking on 6 and 12 string guitars, stinging slide and a lifetime’s stories and songs from the musical highway has him labelled by the Melbourne Age as “Australia’s virtuoso of acoustic roots and blues”.
During an extensive and acclaimed career, Nick has released many albums on major roots and guitar music labels. This recognition has succeeded in having Nick signed to the Grammy award winning label, Solid Air Records USA (“Home of the world’s finest guitarists”). Averaging 150 shows a year in Australia, New Zealand the USA and the UK, his music encompasses an eclectic mix of acoustic roots including blues, folk and early ragtime jazz.
Anyone who has read his contributions as a regular scribe for Rhythms, has seen him perform live over the last 25 years, or has listened to his recorded output would appreciate the extent of Nick Charles’ musical knowledge and expertise over a wide range of roots music. His guitar virtuosity is best exemplified, however, in blues expression.
From his warm, expressive vocals to his dexterous fingerpicking and earthy slide, Charles’ mastery of the country blues in its various shapes and forms is striking. Whether it’s pre-war jazz inflected picking in the style of Lonnie Johnson, folk blues, Delta or Piedmont, Charles is the consummate talent.
Review by Tony Smith
Nick Charles is a guitarist’s guitarist. This is the eighth album of his characteristic finger style roots and blues. While general audiences will tap into this accessible music, guitar players will have special appreciation of Charles’ dexterity and sensitive touch.
In these 10 tracks, five songs, five instrumentals, Charles gets great support from Pete Fidler (dobro and electric lap steel), Louis Gill (electric and double bass and vocals) and Paul Jonas (violin and vocals). The songs are gentle and made for easy listening. The opening track ‘Three lines deep, 12 bars long’ shows Nick Charles’ immersion in blues style. The river of his sound flows deeply and richly. There is also some of wisdom in the lyrics. In ‘Fool’s Gold’ because of the things we chase ‘we’re all bearing crosses we have made’.
In ‘Watching Billy Play the Blues’ Charles demonstrates how in the hands of a technically accomplished performer passionate about his or her music, an instrument becomes a player’s voice. The effect is of floating across a dance floor, oblivious to outside cares. ‘The Things You Want’ is a song that could easily become an earworm and Pete Fidler’s dobro colours the sound that bit more. The guitar soars in ‘Penelope’ a composition which involves a change of mode.
‘I Found You’ has the title line ‘like the river flows’. It is one of those jazz-blues numbers that harks back to pioneers – a Fats Waller sitting at his piano perhaps. In ‘Buckets of Rain’ the grace notes on the dobro are particularly sweet, appropriate for a love song. ‘Doc and Rosa Lee’ is close to gypsy swing with Paul Jonas playing great fiddle. ‘Victory Rag’ is just that – ragtime, while the lap steel gives a slow country feel in ‘The Bridge’. This album shows versatility, vivacity and virtuosity.
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