Ted Estersohn,
Root & Branch
(Wave Chair, 2005)

How many great blues players can there be? Ted Estersohn seems to have been influenced by most of them. This man has made an art of blues and knows just what colours to pull off his palette to create a CD that captures the shine of the old greats and brings them into a new era with Estersohn expressionism.

He's a star guitar player. Bottleneck and fingerstyle are featured on this CD, and with the tune choices, it makes for a quiet, calm blues set with the strength settling in the guitar.

He moves back and forth between a 1929 wood-bodied National resonator guitar and a 1936 Gibson L-7 archtop, playing bottleneck style on the National. A few instances of mandolin, tenor banjo and mandocello appear to add a splash of orange twist to the smooth concoction. Hints of ragtime and jazz seep into some tunes, and it's all good.

Estersohn's voice ranges from crickets of Louisiana to the smoky rasp of Chicago and everywhere in between. His voice throws me a bit. At times, he sounds like a throat singer reminiscent of the traditional singers in the Arctic.

This is a great blues CD, offering a little more and perhaps a little less than what is expected, though 16 tracks give a lot to listen to. It's blues with a light and airy touch; perhaps Estersohn might be called the Lawrence Welk of blues. And I mean that in a good way because he is steeped in tradition but definitely plays with spritely hands, lifting the music with shots of musical helium.

by Virginia MacIsaac
30 September 2006

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