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Leo Abrahams - The Grape and the Grain

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 6 / 4 / 2009

Leo Abrahams - The Grape and the Grain
Label: Hermana
Format: CD


Sometimes excellent, and always pleasant latest album from guitar virtouso Leo Abrahams, who has both a folk and a jazz influence

The phrase “guitar virtuoso” is normally one that strikes fear into the heart. While the acknowledged 'best' guitar players in the world are undoubtedly spectacularly good in technical terms, their recorded output tends to be turgid at best. Normally it's best for such musicians to remain in the shadows, then, as backing band members or session players. So it was a little concerning to read the press release that accompanied 'The Grape and the Grain', Leo Abrahams's debut album. Phrases such as “sought-after guitar player” and the list of supporting artist credits didn't give a promising first impression. The album starts well, though. Leo Abrahams may be spoken of as a guitar whiz, but don't let that lead you to think that this is a record full of flighty solos and boring, repetitive guitar rocking. It's more interesting than that, borrowing from the folk tradition and a little from the southern European guitar tradition and from jazz. 'Masquerade', like the rest of the record, is light on instrumentation and led sparsely by Abraham's solo guitar line, but it has a twitchy energy that recalls folktronica artists such as Four Tet. It was a surprise to read that he eschews modern recording techniques such as sampling and sequencing in favour of relying primarily on sounds generated by guitars, whether from plucking strings or tapping the body of the instrument for percussion. 'Come the Morning' is another track that's easy to like, with a rustic, agrarian feel to it. Several of the tracks that follow, though, are a little too noodling – while 'From Here' and 'Spring Snow' are both pleasant enough, neither really engages the listener, and occasionally drift towards the blandness of commercial soft jazz. 'Blind', though, is more interesting, with a lightly tapped percussion line that allows the light melody to dance above it, and then develops into a more cloudy, atmospheric piece before tapering nicely away at the end. It's at the end of the album that things get more exciting: 'Ends Meet' is a fast-paced, sharp track that opens with the sounds of fingers being slid up and down steel guitar strings and continues with a clockwork tempo that gets more and more pronounced as the instrumentation builds. 'A Ghost on Every Corner' manages to be haunting enough to satisfy its title while also borrowing what sounds a little like the melody of Simon and Garfunkel's 'El Condor Pasa'. The final track, 'Daughter of Persuasion' is a big number to close on, with powerful string flourishes and an intriguing middle section and ending that sounds like it's channeling the sounds of a souk somewhere in the middle east. 'The Grape and The Grain' is a pleasant album with a few stand-out moments that will make it a good buy for fans of plucked guitars.

Track Listing:-
1 Masquerade
2 Come the Morning
3 From Here
4 Spring Snow
5 Blind
6 The Grape and the Grain
7 New Wine
8 Ends Meet
9 A Ghost on Every Corner
10 The Northern Jane
11 Daughter of Persuasion

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