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FAME Review: Ben Woolman - Many Moods
Ben Woolman - Many Moods

Many Moods

Ben Woolman


Available from Ben Woolman's web site.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

The first thing the listener should come to this disc with is the clear understanding that there's just one guy present, Ben Woolman, not the three guitarists it often sounds that there must be. This gent has the extremely difficult art of multi-picking down to a fine science, arrangements contrived in such a way that he actually frequently *is* playing three different lines: walking bass and chordal matrix with complex melodies sitting atop, Hedges by way of Kottke.

Many Moods is completely instrumental, completely solo, with not one single overdub, and must be considered along with the extraordinary CandyRat label master players. Though the disc produces a great ambient sound for non-simplistic atmosphere and spatial enhancement of a balmy summer's day, attentive listening reveals many facets of surprising acumen alongside seemingly impossible feats. Woolman is of a stripe with Antoine DuFour (here) in that regard: subtle but far deeper than the surface effect appears to expose.

The ballads in Moods are quite lush, Picture of Romance demonstrating just how fully a well arranged song can stretch out to borders—notes and strings ringing to pick up the transient overtones and harmonics, dust motes and mayflies dancing through a hazy afternoon. Then there's the David Wilcoxy Salamander Swing right after it, faceted like a lively jewel, letting onto Me, Myself, and You with its superlative slo-picking a la Gabor Szabo in his days with Louis Kabok (and, man o man, what an overlooked small but impressive window that brief two or three LP run was!). So elegant and daunting is Woolman's dexterity that he's been featured in a number of high profile CD anthologies, some of which are available through national retailers like Target. He also guest writes for Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine and Guitar Teacher Magazine, but all of that doesn't begin to intimate just how unique his work is.

Completely as a side note, not only is this guy a great fingerpicker, but the bastard has aced me in at least one aspect of his love of hiking, making the Mt. Whitney ascent & descent in a single day. That's a hellaciously tough hike. I get elevation sickness at 10,500 feet and have never been able to do Whitney or top off mountains exceeding the 10-5 range (Baldy, Palisades Glacier, etc.), dammit! However, if I ever catch him on the switchbacks to the West Rim Overlook at Zion or either ascent out of the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I'll give the guy a run for his money...unless he happens to be playing his axe, and then I'll be too weak-kneed and dreamy to be worth a damn for anything but blissful somnalia.

Track List:

  • One Afternoon
  • Invisible Sun (Sting)
  • Sadie's Smile
  • Mazurka Dance
  • Picture of Romance
  • Salamander Swing
  • Me, Myself, and You
  • Up and Back
  • Wicked Ascent
  • Blake Says (based on Blind Blake's West Coast Blues)
  • Legends of the Fall (James Horner)
All songs written by Ben Woolman except as noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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