Harp Guitar Christmas
Ah, ‘tis the season to be both reflective and jolly. What better way to do that than spin Muriel Anderson’s “Harp Guitar Christmas” to remember the reason for the season. As soon as the CD begins to spin, it becomes easy to understand why Anderson has been hailed as one of the nation’s premier solo-acoustic guitarists. Featuring both nylon and steel-string harp guitars and classical guitar, the National Fingerpicking Champion gives us selections that are both masterful and somewhat playful too. For example, the melodic “El Noi de la Mare (The Son of Mary)” opens the set with some memorable melodic passages that transport us on an impressionable musical journey to Catalonia in northeast Spain. While Muriel covers a number of standard carols, she also treats us with her original “Christmas Hymn,” written for a church service in 1995. While her lyrics for this beautiful melody are online, Muriel chose not to showcase her talent as a singer (for that, you’ll need a copy of her excellent new 2006 all original “Wildcat” album).
The presentation of these fully-instrumental Christmas songs is engaging, and Muriel interprets them with a buoyant, relaxed style. With excellent dynamics and rhythmic control, the playing exudes emotional electricity and proficiency. Using bell-tone harmonics, descending bass lines, modulation and other techniques, she very ably embellishes a fairly typical, conservative Christmas repertoire for solo artist. Her arrangement of “Silent Night” is especially noteworthy for her fashionable stamp on the classic. Perhaps a guest artist’s violin or flute would’ve been a nice way to enhance a few other tunes in the set, but her solo music is still very soothing. To escape some of the hectic nature of the season, this enthralling music provides just the cure. A very pleasant and tranquil aural journey! “Yule” also want to check out her six other albums for stocking stuffers. I thank Muriel for her gift of Christmas music and for her continuing efforts with the Music for Life Alliance, an organization that provides instruments to young musicians. …Joe Ross, Independent reviewer
Hey, you, that’s right, get back here, I’m talking to you. Don’t roll you eyes at me when I’m about to tell you about this solo guitar Christmas album. The only thing wrong with Anderson’s albums is that before this year they didn’t come out often enough. She’s taken steps to correct that this year and this Christmas album is a fine cap to a year when she’s delivered several CDS and DVDs. Just her and her various guitars working out on a set of mostly holiday chestnuts is something that is too up close and personal for anything less than a virtuoso to shine. Anderson shines! With playing that grabs you by the ear and never let’s go, this is a fine portrait of an artist that just keeps getting better and better fully deserving of a toe to toe spot with the masters that have taught her so well. You can enjoy this holiday set all year long. …Chris Spector, Midwest Record Recap
Muriel demonstrates great musicianship, ample energy, and plenty of personality. There are spare settings with just harp-guitar (“Velzoe’s Garden”) or just harp-guitar and voice with Julie Adams’ cello (“Castles in the Sand”). In other arrangements, there are full ensembles (“Wildcat”) and assistance of the five members of the Nashville Chamber Orchestra (“I’ll Never Sing Another Song”). The featured guest artists include Duane Eddy, Stanley Jordan, Mark Kibble, Danny Gottlieb, Nicki Parrott, and Nashville Chamber Orchestra string section…well done to Muriel Anderson for a thoroughly-engaging and tastefully-rendered project! …Amazon.com review
Wildcat is a great album. Guitar players will love it, but so will all people who just love music.
It is a snapshot of somebody at the top of her game doing what she loves.” …Rambles.net
Wildcat is not only Muriel Anderson’s best CD to date; it is perhaps the best album of the year. Muriel’s new vocal and instrumental CD “Wildcat” is inspired by experiences along the road, complete with the stories behind each song. With guest artists Duane Eddy, Stanley Jordan, Mark Kibble, Danny Gottlieb, Stuart Duncan, Annie Selleck, Nicki Parrott, John Colianni, Tom Roady, and members of the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. …Steve King and Johnnie Putman of WGN radio
5 out of 5 stars. Muriel’s best work yet! This CD is totally engrossing and I find nothing about which to complain. Each tune is masterfully written, performed and recorded. Beyond that, each tune leads very well into the next. There’s a wonderful flow to the entire project making this work rather habit forming. Muriel has been for a long time a true guitar master,
and now we find that she can also sing! Excellent writing, excellent playing, great singing, and
truly remarkable production work. Perfectly tasteful. I wish I had done it!…Melissa Dalby,CD Baby
The tunes grab the ear, steering the listener on a journey through Muriel’s world experiences geographically, and more importantly, spiritually. Having roots in country music as well as South American flavorings, she has captured a new genre, ‘Bossa-americana.’ The guitar playing is superb throughout and features many guests. …20th Century Guitar Review, February 2006
Muriel Anderson has traveled an adventurous road in her musical career. So it should come as no surprise that Anderson — an instrumental wizard to this point — should take yet another fork, this time into the realm of vocals on her latest offering, “Wildcat.” It’s a CD chock full of fine supporting players like guitarists Duane Eddy and Stanley Jordan, fiddler Stuart Duncan, and cellist Julie Adams. Those who like Muriel Anderson’s guitar playing will be pleased with the addition of her voice — she’s now singing two ways in her music. …Minor 7th Magazine, February 2006
The sexy little acoustic guitarist with the bluegrass background and the punk/DIY ethos has made her most record/record of her career. Adding vocals and a guest cast of friends she’s made along the way at her “All-Star Guitar Nights”, Anderson is really coming into her own as the entire package, certainly for 3A fans. Her newly found voice is as alluring as her picking, which is flawless as always. …Midwest Record, March 2006
Originally released and recorded when Anderson was well into her ascent as one of our times pre-eminent acoustic guitarists, time, techniques and hindsight have been added to the original tapes as they have been remastered, the performances expanded and the record that once felt like a valentine to the fans now seems more fully realized. The original show stoppers, “Nola” and “It Never Gets Easier” are really driven home this time around. The intimacy of the performance is really brought front and center and you just can’t help but be impressed with what a girl can do with six strings and fretboard. A winning recording that just comes roaring back in top shape. …Chris Spector, Midwestern Record Review
Arioso from Paris
This CD features a lot of Muriel’s beautiful compositions, as well as a few covers, including
the Leo Brower tune, Etude No.6. It’s an awesome CD!
Favorite Five from Toronto Fingerstyle Guitar Society, April 2007
A serious semi-classical date finds Anderson inspired by the French countryside, her guiding light Chet Atkins and more in this remastered reissue from the early days of her solo career. Delicate but never weak, at times it’s filigree and gossamer and at other times, it sounds like she could have taught Liona Boyd a thing or two even back then. A tasty must for guitar fans that need to do some catching up on Anderson’s canon. …Chris Spector, Midwestern Record Review
Muriel Anderson’s Guitarscape Planet DVD
While no stranger to DVD, the delightful and expert Ms. Anderson comes with a concert DVD
that finds her in good company, Paul Wertico of Pat Metheny’s band, Nicki Parrott of Les Paul’s
band and long time co-hort Julie Adams. Talk about making a joyful noise. Showing why she’s
one of the pre-eminent acoustic guitars of the time, this is a full on showcase for her
wonderful talents. Since she doesn’t lend herself to pyrotechnics, the band in a box format
works well here as it gives you an up close intimacy you just can’t get in a concert hall. The
lack of adornment is made for by the passion, skill and personal joy she brings to the
performance. This is a great snapshot of a master of her art at work making it look way easier
than it is…a must for acoustic guitar fans. …Midwestern Record Review
Muriel Anderson’s All Star Guitar Night, Hilton Anaheim Hotel, January 21, 2006
Muriel Anderson has made a name for herself amongst discriminating listeners on the strength of her formidable talent as a guitarist. It would certainly be no surprise to find that many readers of this publication are familiar with her work. Therefore, it is equally unsurprising that she can enlist the talents of truly world-class performers when she hosts her All Star Guitar Night, an event that has taken place at least once a year since 1993. This year’s show was held in the ballroom of the Hilton Anaheim Hotel on January 21, during the weekend of the NAMM convention. The lineup boasted names such as Howard Leese (Heart, Paul Rodgers), Jeff Berlin (bass legend), Stanley Jordan (master jazz guitarist famed for his 2-handed tapping technique), Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck) and Joe Lynn Turner (vocalist for Rainbow, Deep Purple). It would have been a rare treat to see them in such an informal setting. For free, no less. Alas, the infinite number of choices to make amongst NAMM’s myriad sights and sounds conspired to prevent my friends and I from catching the show from its very beginning Yet there were still many delightful surprises to be had that evening, often coming from lesser-known artists. Classical guitarist Sharon Isbin combined a remarkable fluidity of technique with a fine artist’s sensibilities, serving up a performance that can stand proudly alongside those of the instrument’s great masters Executing advanced techniques in intricate passages is apparently second nature to her, as she did so with an unruffled grace The resulting cascade of notes and melodies were mesmerizing, making for a completely satisfying listening experience. Patty Larkin takes an eclectic approach to the guitar, fusing Celtic, folk and rock into an evocative soundscape. The effect was instantly soothing, yet it never became background music. At times rustic while at others atmospheric, it always held the listener’s attention with
its hypnotic vibe and shifting moods.
Just when you thought everything that could be done with a guitar had been invented, along comes an artist like Kaki King. Holding the instrument face up in her lap, she demonstrated an unusual percussive technique that yielded dulcimer-like tones as well as the ‘normal’ sound of an acoustic guitar. Harmonics rang out at various times, adding yet another color to this innovative guitarist’s palette The richness and depth of her music reveals an artistic maturity beyond her 25 or so years on the planet. Vicki Genfan is another acoustic player who showed that the instrument still has the power to surprise. Her fingerstyle approach is complemented by a variety of other skills, such as two-handed tapping, bass note slapping, and harmonics, allowing her to wring every possible sound from her guitar. At times her music is reminiscent of the late Michael Hedges, but at the same time her style remains uniquely her own.
Jazz aficionados were delighted by the very deft fretwork of Mimi Fox. Opting to play a traditional “jazz box”, a hollow-bodied electric guitar on this evening, she demonstrated a mastery not only of technique, but of feel as well. Complex chord shapes intermingled freely with fluid runs of notes, delivered with a robust and confident guitar tone. If there is an advantage to coming in late, it would be the fact that it leaves one open to unexpected surprises One such surprise happened when Stanley Jordan came out to accompany Ms. Fox on her final number Using both hands to tap out chords and riffs, he helped to make it sound like there was an entire jazz guitar orchestra onstage. It was a wonder to behold. This performance was definitely a highlight of an already stellar concert.
Jennifer Batten will probably always be known as “Michael Jackson’s guitarist,” having toured with the King of Pop in front of millions while on the “Bad” tour during the 90s. She has since released a number of solo albums. Recently she has worked with another guitar icon, Jeff Beck. She was notable at this show for being one of the few electric guitarists to take the stage. During her solo set, she amazed and delighted fans of a harder guitar sound, culminating in a song called “Whammy Damage,” featuring the use of two whammy pedals. Between tunes, she was a surprisingly soft-spoken, almost shy individual. This was quite a contrast from her aggressive and confident persona when expressing herself through her guitar.
Bringing her storied history to the stage was slide guitarist Ellen McIlwaine. According to her bio, she is probably the only guitarist in the world to have played with Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Taj Mahal and Jack Bruce. Given such a wealth of experience, it is ironic that hers was possibly the biggest misstep of the night. In the spirit of innovation, she applied distortion to her acoustic slide playing, but the effect reminded one of a session in the dentist’s chair. To her credit, her closing number, “Sidu (Grandmother)” was performed with the guitar’s natural sound. After detuning some strings she blew away the crowd with this very authentic-sounding Middle-Eastern piece, complete with vocal ululations. Having grown up in a multicultural environment, she has taken all of these influences and mixed them into her own blend of world music.
This review would not be complete without a few words about the show’s talented hostess, Muriel Anderson. She wielded an acoustic 6-stringer as well as a harp guitar, playing unbelievably difficult pieces with little more than a gentle smile on her face. Her hands stretched and contorted into mind-boggling shapes, all in the quest to hit that perfect combination of notes. At times guesting with other players, she showed a veteran’s knowledge of stagecraft, never upstaging the featured artist. The concert ended with her bringing several of the evening’s performers up for a final all-star jam. While a traditional and expected way to end an evening of music such as this, it was perhaps a little disappointing that the limited time remaining gave only a few of the players a chance to shine once more. I wanted to see Jennifer Batten take one last blazing solo, but she seemed content to take on a supporting role during this jam.
This All Star Guitar Night was definitely a worthy edition in Ms. Anderson’s concert series. She selected a potent mix of artists, all of whom have dedicated themselves to exploring the boundless possibilities to be found within a 6-string universe. …San Diego Troubador, March 2006
Muriel Anderson at Twiggs Coffee House, January 26, 2006
Incredible. Amazing. Unbelievable. Those of us who were there witnessed a masterful guitar performance merging technical wizardry with heartfelt artistry in perfect balance. One woman, one guitar. A plethora of sounds and emotions. She made the instrument sound like a Japanese koto and samisen during one number. At another time she played all the parts of a bluegrass group simultaneously, simulating the timbres of a bass, mandolin, banjo and fiddle. From start to finish, there was no doubt that she was in complete control of her music and her instrument. Such is her command of both that she was able to play it loose with her set list, undoubtedly drawing from a bottomless wellspring of musical knowledge. Her repertoire is vast indeed, spanning genres from classical to bluegrass and everything in between. Yet this is not just eclecticism for its own sake. Ms. Anderson has clearly dedicated herself to the heritage and art of the guitar, and is on a lifelong quest to explore the full span of the instrument’s possibilities. Her own original songs show how widely her interests range. On her latest CD, “Wildcat”, one can hear jazz, classical, samba, pop and country influences, amongst others.
In addition to her “borrowed” classical guitar (she’s just breaking it in for somebody) she brought a beautiful custom-built harp guitar which allowed her to play bass lines to accompany her picked melodies. She would re-tune some of the harp strings on the fly if a note she needed wasn’t readily available. All of this was performed with a confident humility, with the songs often introduced by homespun tales laced with humor. No hype. Just pure artistry and a determination to redefine the art of fingerstyle guitar. Through it all, she never forgets that she is also there to entertain. So she will take requests, tell amusing anecdotes, and sometimes even draw from an impressive bag of guitar tricks to ensure that her listeners have a good time. Yes, on this evening she fretted a note with her chin! She has also been known to play three songs simultaneously: one on the bass strings and another on the treble strings while she whistles a third tune on top of that. Just for fun. While it’s a wonderful experience to see her in an intimate setting like Twigg’s, talent this big should fill concert halls, which she does play regularly. Her touring schedule takes her across the globe to venues of every shape and size. I’m sure if you asked her, she would say the real reward is in the creation of music, and in the opportunity to share it with appreciative
audiences regardless of their number. Considering the enormous talent Muriel Anderson packs into her diminutive frame, perhaps size doesn’t matter after all. …San Diego Troubador March 2006