by Janet Goodman
The mysterious and curious harp guitar is not well-known to the modern music-loving public. Robbie Robertson of The Band played one in their Scorsese-directed documentary, “The Last Waltz”. Legendary musician, the late Michael Hedges, performed on both acoustic and electric harp guitars back in the 80’s and 90’s. Basically a guitar with two necks, one neck is fretted, with six or twelve strings; the other neck is unfretted, with unstopped open strings. It’s those open strings that provide the tell-tale drone to the instrument’s sonic production. A good way to describe the sound is to refer to what Pete Townsend of The Who said of Michael Hedges: “I feel I can always hear his heart when he plays”.
Indiana pianist and harp guitarist-extraordinaire Brad Hoyt’s new CD, “Together Alone”, features piano duets with ten of the world’s most talented harp guitarists. Each of the fourteen-offered collaborations of his original music on this Harp Guitar Music label-release has its unique sound and style. Geared more towards the harp guitar aficionado than the newcomer, it does provide a welcoming showcase of this unusual instrument.
From hints of South Asian classical, to jazz stylings, to Eastern European influences, tracks on this project, produced by Hoyt and Gregg Miner, prove the genre versatility of the harp guitar, as well as highlighting the differences in richness of tone from instrument to instrument. Duet partners bring their own special flair to the table, playing a variety of types of harp guitars.
Hoyt has a resonating pureness of presence on his Steinway D piano; with his 1914 Hume upright piano, he paints a more vintage soundscape. His harp guitar solo piece, “Sheechka Moye” was written the night before his daughter was born, and more recently the song held deeper meaning as he therapeutically played it during her recovery from a serious car accident. In lieu of lyrical content, this instrumental CD is carried by emotions spun from the duets. Bittersweet nostalgia, haunting regret, playfulness, everlasting love and resilience of character are just some of the spirits tapped into through the mature musicianship here.
Check out his website at www.bradhoyt.com
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