New West Guitar Group

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Formerly the New West Guitar Quartet, the New West Guitar Group (now a trio) also used to be more or less a jazz ensemble. Those who have been paying attention to the group's evolution, however, won't be surprised at the almost complete lack of anything that seriously resembles jazz on this album. Instead, you'll hear discursive and pastoral compositions that make you feel like you're looking out the window of a train crossing the Great Plains ("Arrowhead," "Waiting for You"), tightly composed harmony and counterpoint lines that careen wildly and beautifully all over the place ("Rivercrest"), hot picking with a decidedly country twang ("U-Haul Breakdown"), and even a hint or two of lilting calypso ("All My Belongings"). Everything is so pleasant and inviting that unless you're paying close attention you're liable to miss the jagged complexities that sometimes lurk underneath these tunes' shimmeringly lovely surfaces -- like the nasty 7/8 time signature on which the lovely "Crooked Railroad" is built. Every track features a rich blend of acoustic and electric textures, and the arrangements are so expertly put together that the trio's sound sometimes verges on the orchestral.

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