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Wires, Rosewood & Roots
By Bob Ardern
Label: Self Released
Released 4/3/2012
Wires, Rosewood & Roots tracks
1. Dusty's Train
2. Skating
3. Palindrome
4. Scotch Rocks
5. Pray For Rain
6. Tea Rose
7. Flea's Reel
8. Waiting For McAfee
9. Eleanor of Aquitaine
10. Irish Mood
11. Out of Work
12. Windrush
Wires, Rosewood & Roots
When I first saw the cover of acoustic guitarist Bob Ardern's Wires, Rosewood & Roots, I suspected I was in for a treat. The front and back cover close-up photograph (almost approaching macrophotography) of a guitar are so detailed and beautiful that I hoped and even believed that the music contained within would be up to the task of meriting such a fantastic pair of images. I was right. Ardern is yet another fingerstyle guitar player whom I had previously not heard of but who I am now an "ardent" (pun intended but the word stands just the same) fan of and will be paying close attention to his future releases.

Joined by David Findlay (bass, piano, percussion and drones on some tracks) and, on one song apiece, Kev Corbett (upright base, bodhran, cabasa) and Alyssa Wright (cello) Ardern spins a varied web of moods and styles, yet maintains a signature "feel" to the 12 tracks so that the play-through factor is high and rewarding. Findlay produced the CD (with co-producing credit to the artist) and in the liner notes, Ardern credits Findlay with "knowing when to add other instrumentation and when to leave the guitar alone" and he's right. The balance between solo numbers and those featuring accompaniment is spot-on.

Stylistically, the music on Wires, Rosewood & Roots tends to hew closer to uptempo rural-feel musical sketches, such as the opening Dusty's Train which immediately puts Ardern's fingerstyle technique (and impressive talent for same) on display. Influences include a trace of Irish, some rural folk/Appalachian, and a smattering of jazz. Skating has that "down home" feel to it–a breezy, nostalgic, carefree atmosphere, and Findlay's piano plays against Ardern's guitar nicely. Palindrome starts off somewhat minimally (including a deep, bassy drone by Findlay) before it picks up the pace and starts moving with a slow but deliberate jauntiness. Jazz comes to the fore on Scotch Rocks (after the intro passage) with Findlay layering in some tasty licks on bass, as well as solid percussion and piano among Ardern's sly, shuffling guitar work. Pray For Rain returns to a more rural feel, and Findlay's electric piano (with a bell tone-like quality) once again adds just the right touch the solid guitar playing. The song rocks gently with a distinct but not overpowering folk/country influence. "Flea's Reel" wears its high-stepping, lively Irish roots on its sleeve, especially when Kev Corbett enters the fray on bodhran (as well as upright bass and cabasa), whereas Eleanor of Aquitaine has a somewhat regal air to it, but with warmth, not stuffiness. The album's closing number, Windrush, is a fun, smile-inducing, kick-up-yer-heels tune, with Findlay on bass and percussion and Ardern playing both his standard acoustic guitar as well as a Belanger resonator guitar (a type of guitar which found particular favor among bluegrass and jazz players). Both of those genres can be heard in this excellent choice for a last track.

There are more acoustic guitarists releasing music every day, it seems. As a lover of instrumental guitar music, I usually find something to like in even mediocre recordings. Bob Ardern is NOT a mediocre musician; he plays with a verve and style that shows not just his considerable technique but also the affection he obviously has for playing and the warmth and good humor he feels toward the music as well (all the tunes on Wires Rosewood & Roots are his original compositions). This is a CD that any fan of fingerstyle recordings will appreciate and enjoy; the added bonus of "just-right" additional musical accompaniment is icing on a very tasty cake.
Rating: Very Good   Very Good
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 8/17/2012
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