Acoustic Alchemy

The Beautiful Game

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Greg Carmichael has done more than merely survive the death of Acoustic Alchemy founding member and partner Nick Webb; the guitarist has turned the loss into an opportunity to create a whole new ensemble vibe by collaborating with formerly supporting members of the duo. The biggest differences on this label debut (after nearly a decade with GRP) is that Carmichael is more open-minded toward spontaneous interaction with other instruments, and doesn't mind laying back a bit on the strings. On "The Angel of the South," his and Miles Gilderdales' dark guitar lines snap along over Frank Felix's rolling samba bass groove and hypnotic percussion fills; Guy Barker's Latin trumpet flavors come in later in the tune than they need to. Despite its Spanishy title, "The Panama Cat"is a simmering retro-soul/blues, with a reflective acoustic easing over a constant, jumpy wah-wah click line throughout. The reggae beat of the title track will remind AA fans of the classic "Jamaican Heartbeat," but its moody ambience and occasional hypnotic Terry Disley piano swirls make it sound like a 3rd Force tune. "Hats of Magic" creeps along coolly with sound effects, a trip-hop groove and the dreamy interaction of guitar and Snake Davis' sax. For those averse to the exciting changes, "Big Sky Country" is typical, loping AA trademark stuff all the way. Another unique idea is having Steven Jones produce second versions of both that tune and "Trail Blazer" with an all-Nashville cast complete with appropriate steel guitar twangs, harmonica dobro, and violin. Webb would be proud of his compadre's tribute to moving on.

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