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DUCK BAKER & DAKOTA DAVE HULL - When You Ask A Girl To Leave Her Happy Home

DUCK BAKER & DAKOTA DAVE HULL - When You Ask A Girl To Leave Her Happy Home
Arabica Records  ARABICACF14

Just two men, two guitars, playing a bunch of tunes from the old-time tradition with a few nods towards ragtime. But this tremendous and wholly delightful record is so much more than that bland description implies. Of course the actual playing is unreservedly top-notch – after all, these guys are guitar legends and have both been commanding total respect from fellow-musicians and punters alike for decades. Duck and Dave got to know one another back in the 1990s, yet their partnering together here as a duo, though seemingly inevitable, has been a long time in coming even though both have worked in a number of other duo situations independently. (And it’s been even more of a challenge since they live around 4000 miles apart!…)

As musicians, they’re exceedingly complementary – Duck plays fingerstyle, while Dave wields a plectrum – and so the focus of their act is firmly on the arrangements of the tunes, as the writer of the disc’s crammed liner note so rightly points out. And what arrangements, what skill, what total musicality, in each and every phrase. Nothing is superfluous, no nuance unsounded, no fortuitous conjunction unexplored, it would seem – and yet there always seems more to discover each time you play these recordings through and over again.

That liner note’s brief analysis of the duo’s treatment of Bull At The Wagon is splendidly informative and relevant in illuminating what you’re hearing, enabling you to appreciate the sheer craft, delicacy and enterprise of the musicianship that’s being played out before your very ears. Virtually every section of every tune gets a different treatment, yet there’s never any sense of showing-off; me, I just can’t get enough of these guys’ playing, even after this 50-minutes’ worth I still want more. There’s an extraordinary – yea, limitless – variety of tone and texture, coaxed out of them thar frets on this canny selection of tunes that ranges from Hull’s Victory to Victory Rag, Ducks On The Pond to Billy In The Low Ground, Lonesome Moonlight Waltz to Ragtime Annie and Queen Of The Earth, Child Of The Sky. And glory be, each of the men gets to play in solo mode for a while too.

All Duck and Dave’s readings are characterised by such spirit, with easy panache and a grasp of technique that’s second to none, and you can sure taste the fun they’re having making music, also the joy that playing such really fine instruments gives them.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.