various artists,
Flatpicking Favorites: Hot & Spicy
(FGM, 2004)

This CD came into existence from Flatpicking Guitar Magazine's response to fans' repeated requests for "something that's just hot flatpicking instrumentals." FGM decided to fill the gap, and Flatpicking Favorites: Hot & Spicy with a list of pickers almost a mile long will surely satisfy a lot of those fans.

Twenty-three dedicated pickers stepped up to the challenge to play hot and fast, as FGM rep Dan Millar explains. But something special happened at the first recording session and the tunes, though hot and fast, are also full of something different. The players added more than he expected. He says they were tired of playing the same old tunes the same old way, and that's where the spice comes in.

But it's all good. Bryan Sutton, Brad Davis, Jim Hurst, David Grier, Scott Fore, Kenny Smith, Tim May, Cody Kilby, Larry Keel, Wyatt Rice, Steve Kaufman, Roy Curry, Andy Falco, Chris Eldridge, Bull Harmon, Cecil Tinnon, Robin Kessinger, Mark Cosgrove, Jim Nunally, Scott Nygaard, Tim Stafford, Mike Maddux and Gary Cook all made fitting contributions to the real focus of this instrumental recording.

The collaborative effort of the musicians is worth mentioning as it is a special feature of what you will hear on this CD. The musicians play in pairs, except for one fast-paced cut called "Bill Cheathum" where banjo back-up supplied by Chris Pandolfi and bass by Patrick Falco really add a depth and richness to the tune. A bit more musical arranging like this would have made Hot & Spicy more acceptable to a wider audience, but that's not what they had in mind and most guitar players will probably prefer the pure, clear acoustics that issue an inviting challenge to have a go at it yourself.

Out of 16 cuts, 11 are traditional fiddle tunes. "Arkansas Traveler" and "Leather Britches" are two good examples of the twists and turns these tunes can take when a musician is free to improvise. These good old fiddle tunes put on a new coat of paint and go to town. But as spicy as the music is, it isn't salsa; certainly this isn't a CD of instrumentals that inspire dancing. Head bobbing and shoulder shrugging for sure.

I found 60 minutes of this musical exploration a little too much to take all at one time.

Really, each track deserves your full attention, and you've hardly absorbed one great cut before getting caught up in another and another and another. But if you're sitting down to learn a picking tune or two and taking them one at a time, this is just the trick for that.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 4 September 2004

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