Grammy Award-winning guitarist Earl Klugh releases HandPicked
There are times when all I want to hear is the sound of an acoustic guitar being played by somebody with decent chops.
It helps me relax.
It helps me collect my thoughts.
It helps me find peace, if only for a little while.
I have a half-dozen or so albums of guitar music that fill that bill, picked up here and there over the last 30 years.
The latest addition to that select little group is an almost perfect little record from Grammy Award-winning guitarist Earl Klugh, a brilliant smooth jazz player whose work I’ve followed now for decades.
HandPicked is one of those records that makes you want to settle into a chair on the deck, shut off the world around you and just watch the clouds roll by.
A book and lemonade are optional.
Klugh’s latest project features some 16 tracks, each one hand-picked to mark the occasion of his 60th birthday.
All are favourites of the Detroit-born Klugh who decided at 13 how he was going to spend the rest of his life after seeing Chet Atkins perform on the Perry Como Show.
The songs on HandPicked span more than 60 years.
Some, like Love Is A Many Splendored Thing and Blue Moon, are standards.
Others, like The Beatles’ If I Fell, Little Anthony’s Goin’ Out of My Head and Vince Guaraldi’s Cast Your Fate to the Wind are pop classics.
All of the songs here were chosen for a reason.
In the case of the Thelonious Monk/Cootie Williams chestnut Round Midnight for example he offered up this simple explanation.
“You need a good, solid masterpiece from time to time.”
You can’t argue with logic like that.
HandPicked boasts three Klugh originals, two new offerings, the classically flavoured Where The Wind Takes Me and a modern folk piece called Morning Rain. There’s also a re-working of This Time, a song from his 1978 record Finger Paintings.
While the record features mostly solo pieces there are three duets here.
On Blue Moon he does a duet with acclaimed jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, who plays an electric rather than acoustic guitar on the track.
Hawaiian ukulele star Jake Shimabukuro joined Klugh for a version of The Eagles’ Hotel California.
For a really pretty version of The Everly Brothers’ All I Have to Do is Dream Klugh paired fretboards with Vince Gill, who also added the record’s only vocals, singing just a single verse.
DownBeat magazine called Klugh a master of nylon acoustic guitar and fingerstyle technique.
I can think of no better description for Klugh who has placed no fewer than 23 albums on Billboard’s top-10 list of jazz albums. Five of those entries hit the No. 1 slot.
I like Klugh’s approach to playing and to making records.
In an interview with Modern Guitars magazine he summed it all up this way.
“My enjoyment is searching out new things to play every day and ways to play them. There’s so much I want to do. If there were nothing else to learn and do there’d be no reason to play.”
Here’s hoping he continues to find new things to play.
Choice offerings on this Concord release include Cast Your Fate to The Wind, ‘Round Midnight, Morning Rain, If I Fell, This Time, Blue Moon and All I Have to Do is Dream.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 629-6000, ext. 6057.