Phil Sheeran

Orchid

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Phil Sheeran proclaims himself a "fingerstyle guitarist" in the liner notes to Orchid, and he gives those agile digits quite a workout even on the more low-key tunes which reflect his intention to create a mood recording. With Sheeran, there is always more than meets the eye - just as he eases our expectations into complacency with gentle declarations like "In My Heart" (on which he and flutist Brandon Fields tease each other back and forth over a swaying percussion groove), he heads for the tropics or does the B.B. King thing ("She Likes the Blues"), all to explosive effect. "Sacred Ground" combines the island panning of Andy Narell, the Native American bamboo flute musings of Richard Warner and Sheeran's own darker acoustic guitar tones - all over Harvey Mason's slick rhythmic pockets. Then "Jungle" finds Sheeran at a unique crossroads - his guitar is gentle but Eric Marienthal's alto fires up over a mix of live Mason and spunky hip-hop machinery. "St. Tropez" seeks a healthy compromise between the fire and calm, offering a cool drive time melody most of the way, but breaking for plucky improvisations by Sheeran and keyboardist/producer Gregg Karukas, whose sonic shifts from Rhodes to organ to ivories form the backbone of every cut.

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