David Gogo,
Bare Bones: The Acoustic Blues
(Cordova Bay, 1999)

This is the first -- and to my knowledge only - unplugged album by British Columbia blues musician David Gogo. Gogo, who assures us this is his real name, ventured into this project because he felt he had to meet the challenge that sets merely good guitarists apart from great ones: to be equally at ease with acoustic as with electric guitar. Well, on this aptly titled CD Bare Bones, Gogo has lived up to that challenge.

The 10-track collection contains original Gogo compositions, but also covers of pieces by Bob Dylan, Bukka White, Tom Waits and Don Van Vliet -- all excellently suitable for rendition on acoustic guitar. I particularly liked what Gogo did with "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues" and "Western Coast." This is blues at its purest, with no frizzles; the guitar, used both for melody and percussion, is only amplified by Gogo's surprisingly weathered voice. However, he is also able to cut off the raw edges as he proves with his subtle performance of Dylan's "Shooting Star."

But my favorite is Gogo's own composition "All Over Town." This song has a distinct Ry Cooder sound to it, and it is amazing to hear how Gogo manages to drag out his guitar's rumblings without technical fads.

I have always struggled to figure out what the exact significance of blues music is, how to define it and why it appeals to people of different walks of life. It was when listening to the closing number on Bare Bones, "In My Time of Dying," that it suddenly hit me. On the risk of sounding overly philosophical, the blues could be qualified as "existentialism for the common man," because if you boil down its themes to the most common denominator -- the bare bones, if you wish -- then the blues is all about articulating that most basic experience, of simply "being." The German Existentialist Martin Heidegger once said that we become most acutely aware of our own existence in moments of boredom, a feeling that often comes close to having the blues. Don't we all tend to become ponderous when we are -- having nothing else to do -- thrown back on ourselves, for example, while being on the road alone? Is it then mere coincidence that six of the album's songs have some kind of geographical designation, not to mention the title of the earlier referred final track?

With Bare Bones former guitar prodigy (a honorific awarded to him by no one less than the late Stevie Ray Vaughan) David Gogo has captivated that essential mood and lived up to his reputation as Canada's most prominent blues musician.

- Rambles
written by Carool Kersten
published 8 February 2003

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