Harvey Reid seems to enjoy building his albums around themes; Chestnuts builds itself around instrumental versions of traditional songs. Reid relies on his usual arsenal of instruments, including six and 12-string guitars, six-string banjo, and autoharp to perform this music. "Scarborough Fair" is given an almost classical feel with the addition of Brian Silber on viola. Reid's playing is expansive, and the spacious arrangement and slower pace renders a beautiful reworking of this song. Lively fingerpicking, recalling Merle Travis, highlights "Listen to the Mocking Bird," while David Surette's mandolin injects "Buffalo Gals" with a touch of the Caribbean. Flatpicking phenomenon Dan Crary joins Reid on "My Grandfather's Clock" and a rousing version of "Bill Bailey." In many ways, Chestnuts resembles Reid's 1991 album, Steel Drivin' Man, without vocals. He seems to have made a conscious effort to record instrumental versions of songs that would have been frequently requested a generation or two ago. By presenting them in a fresh setting, perhaps a new generation will take them to heart. A great deal of the music presented on the album is relaxed, as on the rolling six-string banjo piece, "Jesse James," or the folk-tinged "The Blue Bells of Scotland." As usual, Reid enjoys using open tunings and capos to enhance his sound, and his liner notes offer a few tips to budding guitarists. Chestnuts is fine entry into the Reid cannon and real treat for old and new fans.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.