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Don Conoscenti

Mysterious Light

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Don Conoscenti is an enormously skilled guitarist, capable of eyebrow-raising flights of virtuosity and dizzying showmanship. He's demonstrated that throughout a career that has included stints in rock and jazz bands, backup performances for top-flight folk performers, and teaching jobs with prestigious instrumental instructional venues. But in spite of his tremendous gifts as a musician, it is Conoscenti's admirable restraint and his devotion to the craft of songwriting that really makes Mysterious Light shine. Conoscenti never gives in to the temptation to show off. He does not clutter his songs with unnecessarily note-filled jams or distractingly flashy technique. And though he is also accomplished at several other instruments -- including 12-string guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, banjo, mandolin, and harmonica -- Conoscenti wisely steers clear of heavy production and complicated arrangements. Mysterious Light is as raw and intimate as a studio album gets. With the exception of two short instrumental piano interludes, it's just Conoscenti and his acoustic six-string, gently drawing the listener into his thoughtful tales of thwarted hopes and lives in transition. The record has the feel of a late night confessional conversation; honest, direct, and pained, but filled with the hope inherent in genuine human interaction. It is fittingly concluded with 12 seconds of softly chirping crickets. Conoscenti's remarkable fretsmanship comes through in impressively fingerpicked tunes like "Ariana," "Mysterious Light," and "Relative Thing," but he plays with such ease that it is easy to overlook the complexity of his musicianship and focus simply on the emotional content of his songs. That, of course, is exactly the way he wants it.

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