David "Goody" Goodrich first came to my attention when I saw him playing accompaniment with Peter Mulvey. I was thoroughly impressed with both his skills and his taste, which exhibited an important awareness that knowing when to not play is as important as knowing when - and how - to do so.
On the instrumental acoustic album Accidentals of the West, his second CD, Goody continues to display that same skill and taste. Playing every instrument himself, he manages to avoid one of the greatest pitfalls when doing so, that of creating sterile, soulless music. The skill is beyond question - he attended Boston's Berklee School of Music on scholarship. Studying with jazz masters such as Pat Metheny, playing with award-winning bands and musicians in the fertile Boston music scene, and co-writing with (and producing for) friends such as Mulvey has culminated in this current folk-jazz-world music album that defies categorization, because it's not clearly and exclusively any of those styles, but rather a tasteful mixture of them all.
Accidentals contains a dozen original compositions, as well as Lou Reed's Jesus and Jimmy Webb's Wichita Lineman. On the whole, the album is well suited to a variety of listening conditions: early mornings or late nights; as background to conversation (expect to occasionally get distracted from your topic by the excellent music); and almost any other time except when you're in a mood to rock. There's not one song that'll make you hit the "Next Track" button.
The first two pieces are laid back, ideal for the time you spend getting that first pot of coffee started. Then, as the house begins to fill with the smell of the brew, the title track - probably my personal favorite - comes on to pick up the tempo, portending the effect of the soon-to-be-consumed java. Not too radical a shift, but a definite sign that it's time to face the day.
As the album title suggests, this CD would make an excellent soundtrack to a movie with a western setting. It provides an aural image of wide open spaces, of Big Sky country, of rivers flowing as well as raging, of an old steam locomotive negotiating the Rockies, of Butch and Sundance around a late-night campfire, and of so much more.
In addition to his own compositions (Susquehanna Waltz, Three Quarter Ballad, and Now Go There are other favorites), Goody does an excellent job on the two covers.
One of the traits of too many instrumental albums that are centered on acoustic guitar seems to be a general absence of melody, of structure. Even when the playing is technically excellent, I frequently think "Yeah, he can play - but so what?" I've even coined a phrase for the "listen to how well I can play" style that forgets the need for a memorable melody: instrumental masturbation.
Fear not: Goody has the situation well in hand. Wait, for the sake of possibly clever word play, I've risked a misunderstanding. This man can play, and he has written good tunes on which to exhibit that ability.
If you're interested in an acoustic album of instrumentals that lends itself to numerous listening situations, Accidentals of the West would make an excellent choice. In fact, I'd rate it Very Goody.
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