2014 / Bob Ardern
Review by Kathy Parsons
Craftsman is the fourth release from Canadian guitarist/composer Bob Ardern and is an impressive follow-up to his 2012 album, Wires Rosewood and Roots. Ardern’s finger-picking guitar style is warm and accessible and three of the twelve tracks are solo guitar. The title refers to Ardern’s current career as a crafter of music as well as to his previous occupation as a cabinetmaker. Ardern started his musical career playing folk music, and that influence can be heard in his new music as well - even without lyrics or voices. Additional instrumentation includes percussion, pipe organ, bodhran, glockenspiel, bass, cello, piano, bells, and synth pad (plus a few others). This album is excellent for listening with full concentration and also slips easily into the background, creating a very cheerful and light ambiance. It is music that makes you feel good whether it is full blast in the car or a gentle backdrop while you work or enjoy a meal. The recording quality is crystal-clear, creating the illusion that Ardern is playing a private concert just for you.
Craftsman begins with “Tiddlywinks,” an upbeat and playful confection that will get your toes tapping and put a smile on your face - love it! “Pipe Dream” is a bit more relaxed and dreamy. Mostly a guitar solo for the first minutes, pipe organ and bodhran are added to the last stanza and give the piece a very different flavor - yum! “Capo Breton Lullaby” is a beautiful and very gentle guitar solo that feels like a soothing neck rub for the mind. “Schrodinger’s Cat,” a very folky-feeling song-without-words, has a lighthearted innocence that is absolutely infectious. David Findlay adds accents on the glockenspiel, making the piece sparkle. “Nova Scotia New Age Blues” includes cello and percussion and combines a lively spirit with a laid-back attitude. I love “Back to Basics,” and not just because Dave Findlay appears on piano on this one. It’s a great ensemble piece that keeps it simple and fun - another smile-inducer! The gracefully-flowing “Still Waiting” is a heart-felt guitar solo that emphasizes the beauty of simplicity. “Winding Down,” an eight-minute track that includes synth pad and bells, creates a peaceful and ethereal atmosphere while it soothes and relaxes - very elegant yet very accessible. The last two tracks are different versions of “Paso Doble” - one as an ensemble and the other is a bonus solo guitar version. The ensemble arrangement includes percussion, synth pad, bass, and trumpet. It starts out quietly, with an air of mystery, picking up a spirited energy and rhythm as it evolves. I really like both versions!
Craftsman is an excellent guitar album from start to finish! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!
April 17, 2014