Nine of Swords is both a touching tribute to, and an in-depth exploration of, the music and genius of Nick Drake. A masterful acoustic guitar player, Scott Appel has actually managed to figure out some of Drake's ultra-obscure alternate tunings and here uses them on performances of unreleased compositions by Nick Drake himself, as well as several excellent Drake-influenced originals. Amazingly, Appel manages not only to duplicate Drake's enigmatic guitar stylings, but the late singer/songwriter's quiet grace and intensity as well. Perfect music for a lonely winter day, Nine of Swords occasionally veers into new age territory, but more often is reminiscent of Leo Kottke or Frank Christian, two other players who share Nick Drake's penchant for gracing powerfully meditative and emotionally charged songs with brilliant and complex guitar playing. On a few tunes, Appel strays from the solo acoustic format by including bass, percussion, strings, synth, electric lead guitar and tape loop effects, but the additions are always appropriate, occasionally (particularly on the title track) recalling the more experimental work of John Martyn. A gifted player who is incredibly adept at duplicating the haunting musical moods of his hero, Scott Appel has, with Nine of Swords, unquestionably established himself as the torchbearer and foremost interpreter of Nick Drake's work.
AllMusic Review by Pemberton Roach