Having focused on small groups in the 2010s and even collaborated with Argentine ensemble Aires Tango for 2016's Duende, Ralph Towner returns to a solo guitar format on his 2017 ECM effort, the warmly ruminative My Foolish Heart. Entirely consisting of Towner's classically inflected original pieces save for a gorgeously measured rendition of the Victor Young/Ned Washington title track composition, My Foolish Heart is a virtuoso session, intimately delivered. On past solo albums, like 1973's Diary and 1982's evocative Blue Sun, Towner deftly exploited the use of overdubbing various instruments to achieve his atmospheric layers of harmony. Here, with producer Manfred Eicher at the helm, he favors the minimalism of simply playing his woody, acoustic classical and 12-string guitars into a microphone. Even so, there are moments here, like the foreboding "Clarion Call," in which Towner improbably sounds like two musicians combined in duet, his bass figures interwoven with his crystalline, moon-like, high-end phrases. Similarly, the 12-string feature "Biding Time," spills forth like sun on water and brings to mind something along the lines of a classical reworking of a Yes song. Elsewhere, Towner displays his ability to deftly bridge styles on the opening "Pilgrim," which combines Elizabethan-sounding melodies and moody jazz inflection. No less compelling, the sad-eyed "I'll Sing to You" is a bittersweet ballad in which Towner sobs and sighs across his fretboard until landing on a repeated Spanish-flavored phrase that has the feel of someone staring into the dark horizon as they think on a lost love. Ultimately, it's Towner's immense gift for portraying that kind of romantic drama that makes My Foolish Heart such an evocative listening experience.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar