Folk, Finger-Picked Guitar

Album Review

Guitarist Guy Van Duser's extraordinary facility and faultless technique have never been properly recognized or rewarded, despite appearances on Prairie Home Companion and National Public Radio. His definitive early recordings are well worth acquiring. That assignment could be challenging, as Rounder has been uncannily sluggish about reissuing Van Duser, and one Japanese import's $34.00 price tag cannot have encouraged the curious. Released in 1987, Rounder's American Finger Style Guitar is an excellent introduction to Van Duser and his artistry, with 19 selections drawn from three different albums. Tracks 1-4 and 19 come from his very first LP, which dates from 1977. Why a few more of the short solos from that excellent album weren't included is a mystery; his charmingly intimate version of Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek," for example, is sorely missed. The zippy penny whistle heard on "Sweet Georgia Brown" was played by Billy Novick, a witty vocalist and clarinetist who has been Van Duser's partner for decades. The "Great Western TV Medley" is a marvelous piece of Americana, as is John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever," a dazzling demonstration of Van Duser's ability to make one instrument sound like an entire marching band. These two titles represent relatively rare deviations from Van Duser's staple repertoire of classic jazz and Tin Pan Alley pop tunes. Tracks 5 -12 originated on his Stride Guitar album, a Harlem stride piano-inspired effort from 1981. If you want definitive examples of this man's artistry, choose "Black Beauty," "Viper's Drag," and the sinuous "Alligator Crawl." Tracks 13-18 were drawn from Got the World on a String (1985), an album that included a nine-minute medley of Duke Ellington tunes and "The Syncopated Clock," another remnant of early television that epitomizes Van Duser's quirky sense of humor. Most people who have heard of Van Duser know him for his later collaborations with Novick. While those are wholesome, entertaining, and worthwhile, the albums from which the material on this collection was extracted are still the best way to get to know him.
arwulf arwulf, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Chattanooga Choo Choo
  2. As Time Goes By
  3. Sweet Georgia Brown
  4. Great Western TV Medley
  5. That Certain Feeling
  6. Black Beauty
  7. Alligator Crawl
  8. Viper's Drag
  9. Stars Fell on Alabama
  10. Miss Brown to You
  11. I Can't Give You Anything But Love/Goody-Goody
  12. Never Gonna Dance
  13. The Syncopated Clock
  14. On Treasure Island
  15. Little Girl Blue
  16. Avalon
  17. Elmira
  18. Duke Ellington Medley: I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart/I Got It Bad
  19. The Stars and Stripes Forever
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