Wolfgang Muthspiel – "Solo", Material Records

Noel Akchote – "Sonny II (The Music of Sonny Sharrock)", Winter & Winter

Solo guitar projects that work are far and few in between. These two recent ones prove that there is still fertile ground to cover on this instrument.

For starters, we have Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, and his solo guitar (and bass) record "Solo". This is a fairly light affair, where Wolfgang concentrates on the soft, hushed tones of his guitar. He favours the climate of Pat Metheny - the wide open spaces, the sprawling lines that stretch forever. His compositions are filled with melodies, structures and everything that is easy for the average jazz listener to take in and digest. I guess the biggest beef with "Solo" is its lack of challenges. There are no real surprises in store. This is the Wolfgang Muthspiel we have ultimately known before from other projects, just a lot more subdued. I think Noel Akchote is the first person that has the balls to cover the music of the legendary guitar-god Sonny Sharrock. Based on this fact alone, maybe I should automatically give this CD a five-star rating and end the review here with this sentence. Truth be told, I can still remember the only time I saw Sonny Sharrock live, which was back in 1991 in a dinner-club in Toronto called the Bermuda Onion (which sadly, no longer exists). Sonny's band back then featured a two-drummer (and I think a two-keyboard player) line up; something which the sit-down dinner crowd found a bit overwhelming. Then, as Sonny started his soloing, the people sitting closest to the stage mysteriously left the place for fear of their lives. Sonny was in top shape ripping through his classic numbers; his guitar wailing at the top of its range, like some mad, furious drilling machine. For an encore, we were treated to a quadruple dose of "Dick Dogs", as the crowd demanded more. Honestly, it was one of my top 5 concerts I'd ever attended (and believe me, I do hate those top-five lists!). It was so great in fact that I found it highly difficult to remove myself emotionally from Sonny's music since that day. It struck an extreme emotional cord in my life. His music spoke to me, to my insides - the heart, the gut, the whole package.

My emotional attachment is one reason why I find reviewing "Sonny II" a most difficult task. It's hard for me to divorce myself from this music in any way. First off, to be fair, Noel Akchote makes it known that this music strikes an expressive high with him as well. Not all of the tracks recorded for this session are Sonny Sharrock originals, as Noel tried to pay tribute to the man by including several original compositions. All of the power-tracks Sonny was known for "Dick Dogs", "Dance with me Montana", and "Blind Willie" are represented, with slight variations on their themes. "Dick Dogs" is a fairly straight read on the original, with overdubbed guitars playing an important role on the theme on the track. On the whole, this is a more relaxed, more subdued record, as Noel tones down, and presents Sonny's music from a more detailed angle. There is lots of picking, intentional "mistakes" (as Noel calls them), and wholehearted music music for the soul. Truth be told, "Sonny II" is a loving tribute to a man that has re-defined guitar music as we know it today. Take it from someone who feels the love!

Tom Sekowski

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>> Wolfgang Muthspiel - Solo; Noel Akchote - Sonny II (The Music of Sonny Sharrock)

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