STYLE: Ambient/Meditational RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 92329-16437 LABEL: Independent PRM111 FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1
Reviewed by Gareth Hills
If you enjoy guitarists who play brilliantly rather than merely well then you might well know the name El McMeen. So the fact that he's here turned his huge talents to make a Christmas project shouldn't put you off even if Yuletide currently seems a long way away. Imagine yourself sat round a fire on a cold winter's night. As the wood crackles and pops, the wind whispers through the trees, a man sits opposite you with his guitar, totally absorbed in what he is doing, playing music so soulful and rich that you can't imagine the moment without it. That's how New York-based fingerstyle guitarist El McMeen's ethereal playing made me feel on this recording. Hailed by Guitar Player magazine as being "drop-dead gorgeous", McMeen's music taps into something very special indeed. Coaxing beautiful melodies and harmonies out of his guitar, he performs 12 proficient, yet tender orchestrations of traditional Christmas songs, some better known than others. Although those expecting Andy Mckee-style guitar wizardry will probably be disappointed, it is the stirring emotional resonance that makes McMeen's playing so accomplished. His arrangements of "Once In Royal David's City", and "Good King Wenceslas" are particularly moving in this regard. The release isn't entirely perfect; some pieces work better than others, and it feels like it takes a little while for the album to really get going, but, on the whole, El McMeen has produced a collection of pieces which will serve as ample company during many a dark winter's night.
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