Cameron Knowler and Eli Winter, two friends who happen to be some of the brightest young talents in solo guitar music today, bring the best out of each other on their new duo album, Anticipation.
Recorded mostly in a mammoth session last year in Houston, TX, this album finds the two guitarists winding down the backroads of traditional folk and bluegrass music, and veering off into the tangled overgrowth that is modern guitar soli music. They perfectly blend the two related styles together and create a middle ground that is both bucolic and full of heart.
Similar to the Norman Blake and Tony Rice duo records, Anticipation flows loose and free, but there’s always a persistent backbone of classic Americana music that gives each song a solid structure. Also like those albums, there’s a palpable warmth and playfulness in these songs, as the two friends feed off of each other’s energies and discover what their combined powers can do.
This vibe is perhaps most evident on the daring and unpredictable “Sippin’ Amaretto,” with its nearly jazz-like conversational interplays. On this track, the two players trade abstract licks back and forth and bounce unusual tones and textures off of each other, almost as if they’re trying to test just how far they can chase one another.
Yet the most significant strength of this album is the pure harmony that Knowler and Winter can create together. Songs like “Parapraxis of a Dragonfly” and “A White Rose for Mark,” a tribute to guitarist Mark Fosson, are gentle yet passionate expressions filled with lyrical melodies that could have only sprung straight from the heart. These tracks are each pastorally ornate, complete with interweaving guitar lines that crescendo and bloom into a shower of decadent mini-fantasias. There’s a beauty in these tunes that you can feel deep within your gut, no matter how hardened you may be.
Another major highlight of this album is that it gives us a chance to hear Knowler and Winter channeling and tipping their hat to many of their other musical heroes. Apart from the homage to Fosson, the duo also pays tribute to Michael Chapman and Tut Taylor by covering a song by each of the two. The Taylor track, “Southern Filibuster,” is especially choice, as it was recorded live. This energetic recording allows you to get a taste of what the pair’s mini-tour in Texas sounded like last year. (Plus, Taylor’s bluegrass compositions are still fairly underrated, so it’s a rare treat to hear one adapted and performed so well today).
If The Pizza Tapes and albums by Mike Auldridge, Norman Blake and Nathan Salsburg line your walls, then this is a record you need in your clutches as soon as possible. You can buy a copy for yourself from American Dreams Records today.