Minor7th Review of Newer Every Day

Sandy Shalk is something of a renaissance man who's played jazz and pop professionally, taught high school, and written books. More recently, after attending the Swannanoa guitar camp and studying with El McMeen, he began arranging for solo steel-string guitar, which he plays on "Newer Every Day." Shalk's relaxed approach recalls McMeen, although jazzier. He plays standards like "Blue Monk", "Round Midnight", "Take Five", "Georgia on My Mind", and "God Bless the Child" in a style that's gentle and accessible, but also adventurous. His selection of Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy" and Bix Beiderbecke's "Davenport Blues" reveals the depth of his interest in jazz, which, according to his website, extends back to his teens.

Pieces from other genres, such as the hymn "Be Thou My Vision" and Carolan's "Blind Mary", further display Shalk's emphasis on lyricism over flashy playing. In other words, Sandy Shalk is a romantic. There's no better example of this than "My One and Only Love," which features a sensitively articulated melody and moving voices in the midrange and bass registers. He takes the same approach with the traditional Scottish tune, "Arran Boat Song." Sandy Shalk is a fully realized musician who expresses rather than merely plays. His playing both sooths and swings, displaying both individual artistry and sensitivity to his listeners. I intend to listen to this lovely recording frequently and stay on the watch for more music from Sandy Shalk.

©Copyright Patrick Ragains

Minor 7th Review of Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar in DADGAD

I am a seasoned fingerstyle guitar player and I play in a jazz style. However, I have never tuned my guitar to DADGAD before reviewing this latest Stefan Grossman Guitar Workshop instructional DVD, "Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar in DADGAD." So, I have followed Sandy Shalk's instruction as a "competent novice." Shalk has done his historical homework and translated his huge knowledge base of this alternate tuning, and passionately so, into an instructional video featuring five jazz classics (God Bless The Child, Blue Monk, Take Five, All Blues, Round Midnight) into manageable arrangements for an intermediate level player.

After an introduction to the history of classic jazz, the composers and the experiences of the pioneers in the development of DADGAD tuning, Shalk discusses chord voicings such as major 7th, flat 5th, 9th, major 9th with emphasis on the complement of open strings, and the ease of changing the character of a chord with a simple shift of a single note. Guiding the student to the thrill of a new unfolding discovery, Mr. Shalk appears almost euphoric sharing his knowledge, and never condescends the way other humility-challenged instructors are sometimes inclined. Shalk uses the same structured method of teaching for each of the five compositions broken down in three sections. First, he performs the complete piece in his own unique way. A brief story about the work follows, as does a methodical examination of the piece in very slow, multiple frames of the fingerings and explanation of what chords are being executed. The songs are broken down into manageable chunks which can be practiced separately and then combined into the final product, that is – a well arranged jazz standard piece that would be a stellar addition to any player's repertoire. The next section is a split screen version of the song with the camera focusing on each hand.

Kudos go to the production team, with well – placed cameras and editing which truly enhances the learning experience. A world of exploration awaits me and my guitar after this superb presentation. I've already begun a new composition using DADGAD tuning and have assigned one guitar the tuning as standard (although it is pretty easy to change on the fly if required at a performance). Some guitar teachers charge $30 or more for a one hour lesson. For the same cost here one has a full course of instruction that can be revisited time and again. Thank you Sandy Shalk!

– Mark Bayer/Minor7th

Sing Out Review

Spring 2007 – Volume 51 #1


"Giving Voice"

Piney Ridge 1001

You might guess that good guitar music, beautifully played, would be hard to come by but, you’d be surprised. Too many good guitar players decide that a vocal or two (or three or four) will liven up an album, which is just fine if they sing as well as they play. A rare breed of guitarist, however, is smart enough to remember Frank Zappa’s words of wisdom: “Shut up and play your guitar.” This is exactly what Tim Alexander and Sandy Shalk do on Giving Voice, creating one of those rare albums of good guitar music, beautifully played.

A glance at both names on the cover might convince you that Giving Voice is a duo album, but it isn’t. Instead, Alexander and Shalk (simply referred to as Tim and Sandy in the liner notes), take turns on a mellow set of solo acoustic guitar. On Gilles Chabenat’s “Crested Hens,” Shalk’s acoustic guitar captures the delicate nature of the melody, evoking subtle moods and quiet spaces. On “Deep River Blues” Alexander turns in an easy-flowing, happy blues that would’ve made Merle Travis proud. Both players reveal an ability to marry classical proficiency to folk music, creating a down-to-earth hybrid. The closer, Shalk’s take on “Moon River” might even convince you that Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer wrote Celtic jigs for a living. --RL

Minor7th Review

"Giving Voice" 2006 -- This is the first in what will most likely be a series of recordings which fingerstyle player El McMeen is now beginning to produce for his Piney Ridge Music label. The aim is apparently to showcase talented players he's had connections with,and if this first effort is any indication, he's on the right track.

Tim Alexander and Sandy Shalk have put together a lovely disc of mostly gentle, traditional sounding tunes. While it's a duo recording, the pair take their turns on the songs, highlighting their individual talents. Scottish and Irish melodies fill most of the CD, whether jigs like "The Bonnie Jig" (Alexander), ballads like "Jock O'Hazeldean” (Alexander), or the obligatory Turlough O'Carolan song like "Planxty John Irwin" (Shalk). These guys have obviously been playing and listening to these tunes for some time, most clearly evidenced on "Crested Hens" played by Shalk, where he gives the song just the right pace, allowing the music to breath. We even get "Deep River Blues" by Alexander, and "Moon River" by Shalk for a turn on traditional American songs.

The imprint of McMeen is all over "Giving Voice," from the sensitivity of arrangements and clean playing, to the clear fidelity of the recording itself. McMeen's mentoring of these players has given us more terrific guitar music by which to light our days. We're the fortunate ones for hearing their voice.

© Kirk Albrecht