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Siunta Music SM2207

German guitarist and composer Jens Kommnick’s latest solo album quickly follows from his 2011 release, Mey, and his debut solo album, Siunta, issued in 2009. He has previously been a member of such ground breaking German Celtic inspired bands such as the Essen based Limerick Junction, which issued two fine recordings and achieved cult status in Ireland. While inhabiting the area referred to as a ‘Celtic guitarist’ his work has an extra dimension with his multifarious playing of bouzouki, cello, fiddle, harp, uilleann pipes, tin whistle, viola and cello, which he uses for multi-tracking, and his absorption of a wider scale of influences from the Renaissance and Baroque canons, not to mention material from mainland Europe.

The redwood in question is his latest acoustic guitar, made by luthier George Lowden no less, which features as a solo lead instrument on half the tracks of this album - the top of the guitar is made from redwood itself. It’s clear that this is a guitarist’s album and, as such, it quickly finds itself within the mould established by acoustic stylists like the late John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, with a dash of Tony McManus and Artie McGlynn for good measure.

The first two tracks on Redwood aim squarely for the pensive and the compelling ends of guitar music; Ann Kathrins Walzer composed for a fictional police inspector popularised by German author Klaus-Peter Wolf, and An Rogaire Dubh, a set of jigs including two contemporary tunes by American flautist Sarah Bauhan and Rory Kennedy (his father in law) that catch the twin modes of compositional twists and traditional re-imaginings. His take on J.S. Bach’s 2. Brandenburgisches Konzert (Allegro assai) is an ingenious setting of a Baroque piece in a string ensemble of mandolins, bouzouki, acoustic guitar and double bass.

The slow air, Casadh Na Graige, which he used to play accompanying Eithne Ni Uallachain, is a divinely meditative piece, while Kukhnya Horo shows his ability with and interest in Balkan rhythms. However, it’s in the hypnotically transcendent spindly chords of the Breton tune, An Ardeven, where the heaven is found – every note shimmers and purrs like a contented cream fed cat begging for more before The Humours Of Tulla gets a thorough going over followed by Nigel Eaton’s Halsway Schottische, where he also plays cello and uilleann pipes. Jens Kommnick’s abilities as a master guitarist are well endowed and Redwood should further his cause no end. It’s a featherbed of riches for the taking and enjoyment.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 115 of The Living Tradition magazine.