Following several excellent ventures into vocal releases, CandyRat returns to the instrumental side with this sparkling CD by fingerpicker Jimmy Wahlsteen, a Swedish player in demand as a top sessioneer (shades of Janne Schaeffer!) but who sounds consummately Amer-British. That's because he harbors strong affections for Paul Simon, John Martyn, and the folk-mellow side of the house.
While much of the CandyRat label reaches very strongly for art music and progressing the role of stringed instruments, it also cleaves ceaselessly to technical and creative perfection in whatever presents itself. Well, both are achieved here and no sooner fused than the second cut, It's Your Favorite, with a neoclassically tinged string section first sounding like Elliot Carter on happy pills, then like Mason Williams conducting all and sundry into prairie wheatfields. Followed by the complex Rapid Eye Movement, a song Kottke will envy, there's joyous exuberance afoot, an emotion bursting from much of 181st Songs. Even when solemn, Wahlsteen can't help but feel great and transmit that benevolent infection to the listener.
Ah, but Jimmy's also the producer and engineer here, and his CD's untouchably clean, spotless while dripping with spacious atmospheres perfectly captured, transparent, three-dimensional when needed (Tranquility) or close and intimate (Carry Me). This is what all the CandyRatters are: not just artists of a stratospheric level but master craftsmen as well, looking after every little detail, painstakingly dedicated to the totality of the presentation, not just chops and fretboard finesse. Wahlsteen has subsumed the entire palette save for the final mix, and that only because, I strongly suspect, there are only 24 hours in a day and ya gotta do menial stuff like eat and sleep once in a while.
All of which just goes to say that 181st Songs is another perfect Rat release, and Jimmy Wahlsteen should soon become a familiar name well beyond the borders of his chilly northern homeland. He's captured the very soul of this mode of music, a linchpin none may resist, and that alone will appeal to anyone sitting down to sample its delights, whether they favor rock, folk, Carnatic, jazz, or whatever. No matter where you travel in it, each track speaks the universal language fluently.
Oh, and see if you catch the photographic hints of Eddie Izzard that I do.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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