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By Damon Buxton
Label: Many Miles Music
Released 5/6/2012
Unbroken tracks
1. Opening the Gates
2. Unbroken
3. Blood and Wings
4. Valkyrie's Rest (for Ash)
5. Botticelli Eyes
6. Alexzandria
7. Orphan
8. Book of Ruth
9. Carpentry
10. Necessary Evils
11. An Evening with Sophia
12. Finally Home
Acoustic guitarist Damon Buxton's Unbroken is one of those ideal autumnal recordings that fits the season to a "T." However, it's not just the music (although from that perspective, this CD is an excellent successor to Buxton's first two releases, Forgiving Dreams and Rotation of Earth; in fact, for me, it's the best of the three). Besides the great music, the CD's extensive liner notes (by the artist) reveal a lot about Buxton and his travels through life. The liner notes are part of a ten-page booklet inside the jewel case, featuring stunning photography by Kyle Cassidy (with some lustrous images of model Sophia Iannicelli). The photos "paint" the picture of the music inside the jewel case. There is beauty here (both images and music) yet tinted with a somberness, a deep core of introspection and reflection, evocative and suffused with rich, human emotion. Yet, this is not some acoustic instrumental "shoegazer, navel-worshipping" trip into ennui land. Buxton takes the listener on a personal musical trip through his memories and the resultant inspirations for these twelve melodic impressionistic tone poems.

Musically, the twelve tracks on the CD offer some variety in mood, tempo, and style (this is noticeable, but not overtly disruptive to the overall musical vision). However, the "whole" of Unbroken is solid and cohesive, due to Buxton's guitar playing technique and also how Corin Nelsen engineered, mixed, and mastered the album. While cello virtuoso Eugene Friesen contributes on two tracks, for all intents and purposes this is Buxton's show.

Opening the Gates starts the CD off as a mellow-paced solo number, evoking movement but at a moderate speed, as if one is indeed starting off on a journey. The mood is cheery without being overly so, and the music is warm and inviting, as if Buxton is saying to the listener, "Want to come along?" The title track, the first of two featuring Friesen, is more introspective and impressionistic, owing not just to the melody itself but how Buxton uses the space between the notes at times, notably at the tune's outset. The tempo is slow but features a rolling sensation just the same and the overall impact is eventually uplifting. Friesen's accompaniment is what he always delivers, i.e. nuance and artistry. Blood and Wings first introduces a darker element into the music, not to the point of being morose, but unmistakably propelled by struggle and a palpable sense of tension. Valkyrie's Rest (for Ash) opens with a vague Celtic air (interesting that I hear this influence what with the title naming a Germanic myth) – sprightly but not overtly cheery. Buxton picks up the pace as the piece progresses and the Celtic feel recedes if not disappears completely as the mood lightens.

Rather than detail the remaining eight selections, I'll give you a taste of a few of them. Botticelli Eyes is pensive yet romantic, gentle and slow-paced. Orphan (inspired by Buxton's father's time being raised as one) has a unique sound compared to the other tracks – something Buxton or Nelsen did with the guitar makes it sound fuller. The song features sparse melody, sequences of melody interrupted by pronounced pauses during which the notes echo via the instrument's sound hole reverberations. Book of Ruth marks Friesen's second contribution and he, in fact, opens the cut with a thirty-second sorrowful prologue, which again mirrors what the song's source is, per the liner notes. Buxton takes over the piece and he eloquently paints a subtle picture of loss, remembrance, and hope for a safe return. The woman whose images grace the CD's liner booklet and cover serves as the inspiration for An Evening With Sophia, a gentle restrained guitar rumination on two people getting to know each other through a shared artistic endeavor. The closing track is Finally Home and this mid tempo flowing piece was written for the artist's "beloved Lily" and the contemplative peacefulness of the music does indeed evoke a feeling of conclusion wedded with contentment.

Unbroken is a great acoustic guitar album that should elevate Damon Buxton into the top tier of acoustic guitarists owing to both his virtuosic talent on the instrument as well as his true flair for composition. However, it's Unbroken's intimacy and sincerity that make the CD such an artistic triumph. Listening to Unbroken while reading the liner notes impacts it's as if Buxton is leading the listener down a path which highlights memories of the past and dreams of the future. It's certainly worth following him on this revealing journey.
Rating: Very Good +   Very Good +
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 11/16/2012
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