James Cohen,
High Side of Lowdown
(NorthernBlues, 2003)

James Cohen has been an admirer of flamenco since he was 6 years old and listening to some "strange gypsy music" at his uncle's home. Flamenco has always seemed to me to be dark and exotic, more flash and excitement than lasting substance.

So I've just been educated. The excellent guitar playing on High Side of Lowdown is exciting but also fun, mysterious, joyous, skillful, creative and simply amazing.

Really, I like to play guitar instrumentals when I'm in a reflective or soulful mood and there's too much movement and vigor in these cuts to do that. I like it though. The music is joyous without being syrupy, moving without being maudlin, and there are two layers to the music that I find fascinating.

Underneath is an extremely energetic layer and on top of that, toning it down, is a denser layer of musical matter creating a tension so alive it's got to be like hearing a volcano rumble beneath you as the ground shakes and you're sitting safe above ground. For those of you who know flamenco well, perhaps that's not a surprise.

Helping Cohen out is Tony D. on steel string guitar, Devin Johnstone on percussion, Stu Watkins on bass and Richard Bell on keyboards, piano, vibraphone and accordion for an excellent number of combinations.

There are also influences that tinge the sound with a bit of rock and blues. It's a more than decent sound and a real blast to listen to if you like guitar at all. I can't find anything bad to say about this one. It sounds good, it feels good. I'm just not sure whose company I'll play it in yet. Probably for a low key, nice-people, feel good kind of gathering.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 8 November 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.