Zebra Acoustic Records
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
To say that there has been a proliferation of acoustic guitarists in the past two decades is a clear understatement. What hath William Ackerman wrought? So much music and so little of it memorable. To wade through the dross and find those with genuine musicality requires either great luck or a lot of time on your hands. Things have been made a tad easier of late with the release of a compilation of some of the rather remarkable and diverse work of Pierre Bensusan on Nice Feeling, on the newly formed Zebra label.
This French-Algerian has been recording since 1976. Nice Feeling brings together an instrumental selection from his first six Rounder albums. Bensusan's singing and songwriting were first evidenced on Pres De Paris, which showcases his eclectic approach to the material, drawing upon a wealth of styles in crafting his own unique sound. Perhaps best known for his celtic sources (made most apparent on Heman Dubh - a traditional Breton tune and the only non-original on the disc, and Voyage For Ireland). The English influence of Jansch and Renbourn, is also apparent in several of the cuts (Abbesse's Cake, The Last Pud, and the most Dowlandesque The Capricorne's Dance). Bensusan is not without his new age moments, however, most noticeable on Wu Wei, 4 A.M. and Alimatou. Frankly, I will take Bensusan's new ageism over most of the genre's other proponents as there is a melodic beauty that holds you rather than encourages you to drift into reverie. As mentioned, Pierre is a singer-songwriter, and while this is a wordless disc, his voice is heard to good effect on the jazz influenced Bombarde (with Bensusan echoing the jazzy runs of the tune vocally) and Flemish Suite with Apples (which has a very English feel to it, and where the overlay of a soprano sax works seamlessly with his scatting vocals - it's a combination that works nicely). The addition of percussion on Felafel adds a slight middle eastern feel to a very rhythmic picking, again with vocals that serve the piece by adding an element of atmosphere.
Jazz, celtic, English renaissance and new age influences in other hands might seem a trifle unfocused, but Bensusan has the chops and charm to pull it off, creating a cohesive whole, even on a compilation such as this. All in all, one goes back to this disc repeatedly because of that masterful variety. A Nice Feeling indeed.
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Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz (email@example.com)