Ye Mariners All

Lehto & Wright

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The Bands First release. Dirty Linen said: As ubiquitous as the guitar may be in accompanying 21st century interpretations of Celtic and English music, across the full spectrum from acoustic traditional bands to folk-rock, it's relatively rare to hear it used as a featured lead instrument. Hot fiddlers, flute players, squeeze box squeezers, and pipers abound these days, but rare is the group that features a standout lead guitarist. It's as if guitars just aren't traditional enough to stand alongside electric bass and drum kits.

The Minneapolis duo Lehto & Wright is a welcome exception. On Ye Mariners AII [Narnian Records 0012 (2001)], Steve Lehto and John Wright, joined by drummer Matt Jacobs, have put together a brilliant collection of mostly English and Irish material in guitar-grounded arrangements. They're equally versed in acoustic and electric modes, with sparkling acoustic tracks like "The Butcher Boy" that feature interlocking licks from multiple guitars alternating with crunchy electric power-trio numbers in which Wright switches to eight-string bass, like "Four Drunken Maidens." There's plenty of fast jig-picking, tasty string-bending, and clever cross-genre colorings, like Nick Drake's classic "Pink Moon" interwoven with "Banish Misfortune" played on resonator guitar. The title track is a 1O-minute wonder, an eerie nautical tale followed by a multi-instrumental excursion that brings in zither and harp guitar, among other things, and a cover of Drake's "Black Eyed Dog" is a scary, screaming fury of strings. This is fascinating, creative music.

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