* * * * – All Music Guide
* * * * – Record Collector UK
June 17 on air KPFA, July 3 on air KALW
NYC’s Tompkins Square label is proud to present Beyond Berkeley Guitar, a collection of some of Northern California’s finest acoustic guitarists, available June 8th, 2010.
Beyond Berkeley Guitar is the follow-up to 2006’s Berkeley Guitar, which through the efforts of three young guitarists, exemplified a strong current of American Primitive guitar playing in Berkeley still thriving since the 1960’s when Takoma Records was founded there by John Fahey. That album included liner notes by Takoma’s Ed Denson, and the stunning CD and gatefold LP were designed by acclaimed painter and Baroness singer/guitarist John Baizley. Beyond Berkeley Guitar was curated and produced by Sean Smith, who also produced Berkeley Guitar. As the title suggests, Beyond Berkeley Guitar expands the boundaries, stylistically and regionally, to display the prowess of seven Bay Area guitarists, all of whom use solo guitar composition as a means of profound personal expression.
This collection spans generations of players, from Aaron Sheppard, a twenty year old virtuoso fingerpicker, to Richard Osborn, a free-raga style player who studied with Robbie Basho in the 1960’s. The album also offers the rare treat of hearing a woman represented within a genre dominated almost entirely by men; Ava Mendoza, whose wiley and highly technical playing closes the album. Included as well are two gentle players, Trevor Healy and Chuck Johnson, who both come from avant rock pasts; Lucas Boilon, who largely keeps his extreme talent to himself; and Sean Smith, who continues to stretch the boundaries of American Primitive through genre and influence re-appropriation.
There will be a record release event with performances by the players on Beyond Berkeley Guitar, June 29th at Amnesia in San Francisco.
UNCUT Review :
“Beyond Berkeley Guitar” is the latest survey of guitar soli from the ever-rewarding Tompkins Square label. This one, as the name implies, is a sequel to the “Berkeley Guitar” comp of a few years back, rounding up the current batch of Bay Area American primitives. This one’s a consistently strong and lovely set of concentrated virtuosity, the seven players recorded with a crispness and clarity that eschews rowdiness in favour of a meditative spiritual purity.
Hard to pick out a highlight from the Fahey/Basho-worshipping artists featured, though maybe Sean Smith – who also curated and produced “Beyond Berkeley Guitar” – just shades it. Special mention, too, though, to Lucas Boilon and to Ava Mendoza, the latter standing out with an electric, jazzy skip with overtones of Django Reinhardt.