Before there was CandyRat, there was Toulouse Engelhardt and the Takoma boys (with the inimitable Leo Kottke), and it's hard to believe that this is only his 10th album since the 1976 debut, but Toulouse is one of those eccentrics who's on a different path from the lion's share of the rest of us, as much a zen cat just passing through as a consummate artist whose skills never fail to dazzle, no matter how untutored or how erudite the audience. The L.A. Times has called him a genius, Guitar Player readily admits he's "amazing…sizzling", and you won't find a harsh word written or uttered anywhere. When you're as good as Engelhardt, ya kinda get to do what ya want, and people are grateful you do it at all. The same goes for Kottke, Tommy Emmanuel, and a double fistful of others.
Thus, it's past time that a retrospective was issued, and this is it. If you're not familiar with this wizard of the strings, then read no further, grab the sumptuous feast that is Toulousology, and do yourself a big favor. What you'll find, however, is a complex mixture of the wild, the standards, and the classical. Engelhardt was never timid about tossing everything he could find into a Waring blender in order just to see what new combinations could be worked out, and the result is frequently dizzying, as the opening cut, Fire in O'Doodlee's Popcorn Factory demonstrates. The follower, Blind Watchmaker, is even crazier, commencing with a recitation of Jerusalem before heading for blinding speed in chord strums and lead lines, abruptly shutting back down into a variation of the opening quotes.
Engelhardt's take on Hendrix's Third Stone from the Sun is akin to a Fahey/Kottke reading on benzedrine. Toulouse gets a lot more out of the song than John or Leo ever would 'cause those estimables just don't think that way…and Engelhardt does, which is what makes him unique: that mental aspect, perception, possibilities. So if you want to get knocked on your ass at the prospect of what one man, one guitar, and two hands can do, this is it. At times, you'll swear there are three players and at other times you'll just swear: "Damn it! It's impossible for just one guy to do that!". And while you're cussing up a disbelieving storm, read (here) about his last release. It'll calm ya down a mite. But not much.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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