A sequel to the Berkeley Guitar compilation on Tompkins Square from 2006, Beyond Berkeley Guitar shares a performer and compiler in the person of Sean Smith but, as his detailed liner notes indicate, he wanted to showcase a variety of performers throughout the Bay Area and beyond. The resultant collection is an inspiring sampler, something that on the face of it would "just" be a collection of another crop of Fahey/Basho/Bell disciples and more, but in fact, showcases how the solo acoustic guitar style contains a wide variety of approaches which resist easy pigeonholing. Smith, perhaps unsurprisingly, takes pride of place with his lengthy contribution "Ourselves When We Are Real," exploring a number of styles on its own, with its midsection a masterpiece of high-pitched, controlled fragility, the melody and guitar both sounding like they might just be about to break. Each of the other contributors create fine selections in turn, with the steady work of Richard Osborn, the "elder of the group," in Smith's words, providing calm and contemplation on his "A Dream of Distant Summer," living up to the title's suggestion of the dawn in that season as the song progresses and he lets a lovely hop-skip-jump feeling come to the fore. Another veteran performer appears in the person of Chuck Johnson, with the former member of Idyll Swords bringing the experimentation evident in that group to a solo presentation just as easily, his "A Struggle Not a Thought" quickly shifting between long held notes and sudden motion, a back and forth in miniature. Among the younger performers, Aaron Shepherd's "The Transmigration of The Old West" demonstrates good fingerpicking skills as well as a hint of strange doom, while Ava Mendoza's concluding "Redwood Regional Park Blues: Between Hay and Grass" feels like a breezy 1930s number relocated, with a bit of country swing and swagger.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett