The title to this CD translates as "The New Path", and that's precisely what you get, a striking hybridization of Balkan, Greek, and Turkish musics played in the West-African clawhammer technique most often used in American banjo playing but only rarely on guitar. From the first moments in the disc, all five cultures are distinctly heard but with the rare discernment of a master, and it would be no mistake to say that this music deserves a place right alongside the Takoma guys (Kottke, Fahey, Lang, etc.). One of the most brilliant players to ever pick up a guitar is Leo Kottke. I've seen him live and still can't put into words what it is he does, no one can. Whatever it is, though, it's in his hands, not in theory or in the playing per se, and Tev Stevig has the same gift.
I also detect a bit of Ralph Towner in the exotic classicalities captured, as well as some Kelly Joe Phelps, as Phelps is one of those players who transcends boundaries when you least expect it, without a hint of warning. It's in the way he thinks. Stevig manages to fuse tradition with spontaneity with discipline while exploring even his own self-created borders. That some of the sounds are emerging from normal guitars is at times hard to credit. Stevig achieves slurs, inflections, and nuances normally found on other stringed instruments made for the work (lyres, ouds, etc.) and through, of course, hard-won skills in non-Western approaches.
Jeni Jol is actually very much on the level of what the CandyRat label publishes, a compendium of serious superior musicianship unbound by any particular approach but composed of a blend of the higher reaches of many. All the mid-East theories and modes share quite a bit in common, reaching even into klezmer, while departing significantly from one another; thus, when you suddenly realize Stevig is even dipping into the complexities of the Carnatic style, don't be too surprised. Nonetheless, acolytes of Americana will find just as much in Jeni Jol as those who cherish World exotica and the cerebrality of esteemed ensembles like Oregon. More, Jol is all completely solo and the first in an intended series of releases. Here's a link to a video of a truncated version of Dinner at the Meades'. It features some beautiful fingerstyle playing, but, trust me, what you'll hear in this CD travels well beyond the video:
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles