CD Reviews

Tasmania Live
© Kirk Albrecht, minor7th.com, 7 January 2012
Richard Gilewitz "Tasmania Live," 2011 The irreverent Richard Gilewitz has brought smiles to the faces of his fans again with the release of "Tasmania Live," recorded in that land of the "devil" somewhere in the ocean south of Australia. Listeners will quickly hear the stylings and songs of two of Gilewitz's mentors – John Fahey and Leo Kottke. Fahey came to the island 30 years ago, and Gilewitz pays old John a compliment by playing no less than 3 Fahey songs on the CD. Gilewitz is a true master of fingerstyle guitar, and can play about anything possible on six or twelve strings. The bulk of the material from these two concerts is blues, ragtime, and folk. Mixed between the songs is the natural patter and humor his audiences have come to expect from a Richard Gilewitz show. He plays with grace and power on Jorma Kaukonen's "Embryonic Journey" (sounding a lot like Leo Kottke), while opening the CD with a rollicking version of his own song "Wazamataz." When he's not rolling, Gilewitz slows it down with a lush jazzy version of the Howard Arlen classic "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." You can't hear anything but the guitar, all ears straining to catch each phrase, even as he seamlessly segues into Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now." Really lovely playing. He covers the Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four" with the cheek it deserves. Gilewitz and his co-producer Tim May end the disc with Kottke's "Jack Fig" – a fine way to go out. Gilewitz is at the top of his game, and the audiences who heard him in Tasmania had a treat.

L2P Network/ Robert Linquist
Well, I wasn’t able to make it to the Palais Theatre in Tasmania last summer to hear finger-style guitarist Richard Gilewitz perform live, but according to our correspondent in the land DownUnder, it was quite an event. Lucky for those of us who were on walk-about and couldn’t make it, the event was been captured for live CD. For Richard, music is his life and his livlihood. He fully understands that to reap the benefits of performing for a living, much hard work is required. With that goal in mind, he’s become not only a master performer—blending relatable storytelling with a sophisticated style of playing—but an accomplished networker as well. Through this combination of skills (and a highly dedicated street team of fans and friends) Richard is able to sniff out and pursue opportunities often missed. As a result, he’s trotted much of the globe and played for countless people in many countries... and made many friends along the way.
      Tasmania Live is an excellent collection of songs that not only demonstrate that he knows which side of the guitar the strings are on, but that he appreciates his music from the standpoint of his audience. Obviously, the reason we attend concerts in the first place is to watch the artist perform their magic before our very eyes, and there’s a lot of magic in Richard’s music. While the visual aspect may be lost from the recording, the music itself takes on a a fuller, more intense level of expression. This reviewers favorites include “Have You Seen A Rainbow At Night?,”  “Bilingual Fantasy,” and “Sarah Natasha.” There are also some wonderfully done covers thrown in for good mention, including “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” “Freight Train,” and “Both sides Now.” For samples of three of the songs on the CD (unfortunately, none of those I mentioned) just go to his web site.
      The production quality is excellent. And while it sounds fine through earbuds, it’s better listened to on a good stereo, in a big room, with volume up. In fact, if you tape a couple of big blow up photos of Richard to your wall, it’ll be just like you are there, in the front row, for Tasmania Live. Popcorn?

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Strings for a Season
David Walker Music
And if you just cannot get enough guitar carols, check out Richard Gilewitz playing them on his CD Strings for a Season. I have just had an extensive introduction to Mr. Gilewitz’s music, and I will be writing more about it in the near future, but I can tell you that this CD is the best of the bunch. You can buy this one from Amazon.com. David Walker Music

The Christmas Reviews, Carol Swanson - 2008
Strings for a Season:  The perfect backdrop for almost any holiday event.
The ChristmasReviews.com website has many holiday music reviews featuring solo acoustic guitar albums, and these are some of my favorite offerings. The warm and winning sound of a well-played guitar is a natural organic match for Christmas carols; the familiar and accessible guitar voice embraces and enhances the nostalgic joys inherently associated with the holidays. Richard Gilewitz's Strings for a Season is an exciting addition to the instrumental guitar genre; even more importantly, it provides more layers of interest. In addition to Gilewitz's virtuosity on the 6 & 12-string guitars, he welcomes several musician friends who contribute a family of strings (guitar, cello, violin, mandolin, banjo, and piano). The result is a richer, fuller sound that largely retains the intimacy of the solo guitar, and this fine recipe makes Strings for a Season a great entertainment option for the holidays.

I reviewed this album at 5 AM on a frosty October morning in Minnesota, and the music's friendly companionship certainly made the early hour easier to accept. The arrangements are exceptional; Stephen Siktberg provides the bulk, but the late John Fahey contributes one, and Gilewitz presents his own freshly-minted, Fahey-inspired constructions. The well-worn carols dance with color, light, and heat--almost as though the music is its own holiday hearth, rewarding the listeners with comfort and bliss. The music is cheery, but never frenetic; this album is the perfect backdrop for almost any holiday event.

Although all players make important contributions here, I particularly love the cello's low voice (Laurie Jarski, Deidre Emerson); for me, the cello speaks straight from the soul. Every track is excellent, and it is difficult to pick out "favorites" from the group. Even so, the highlights must include Gilewitz's solo guitar on Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, the jazzy flourishes (and banjo excitement) on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and the full interplay of strings and piano on We Three Kings.

Impressive! Richard Gilewitz has created a classic Christmas album that should endure; Strings for a Season will be warmly received by diverse holiday music aficionados for many, many years to come!

FAME Reviews
by Mark S. Tucker for the Folk and Music Exchange

I was enamored with Richard Gilewitz's *Live at the Second Street Theater* in 2006 (here), where the fingerpicker showcased a dazzling schedule of compelling cuts. The guy's a favored performer in the California Guitar Trio's fancy, so you know we're talking about unusual skill and quality. Christmas CDs, though, are often a dicey affair, what with so many New Age goop fests and pop banality tending to surfeit the market, but Gilewitz only decided to produce his after listening to Stephen C. Siktberg's Christmas Music for Acoustic Guitar and the bracing arrangements contained therein. It was a wise choice as the guy managed to also avoid the oft smotheringly wooden recitals seasonal songs receive when rendered in a classical vein. Part of this departure from rigid orthodoxy derives from the guitarist's love for John Fahey's work.

The disc, however, is not solo, as Gilewitz chose a quintet of backing musicians (second guitar, two cellos, keyboards) with nicely attuned ears, a gathering managing to straddle the rarefied airs of both Beethoven's time and the Windham Hill label (the most successful New Age imprint yet produced), ending up with, as Gilewitz himself puts it, a flurry of sounds. Mostly the atmosphere is of the sort Fahey would've favored, along with refrains of Jan Akkerman's baroque solo stylings and tastes of William Ackerman's famed imprint. Don't take that as gospel, though, as the arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman smacks deliciously of a cow poke's Christmas, embodying an absolutely unique interpretation. Matching it, closing the CD is a version of Jingle Bells that would do a barnraising proud. These two cuts, in fact, for all the warmth of the classicalist approach, prompt me to urge Gilewitz to consider next year doing a completely countrified Xmas release:, the pair here being so devastatingly good.

Throughout Strings for a Season, the mix is sometimes thick and lush (The First Noel for instance), other times spare and pensive (O Holy Night) but always rimed with the stateliness of antiquity and a number of innovations the years since have evoked. Credit Tim May and Tim Roberts for partial credit as well. May provides the complementary back-up guitars (banjo and mando included) while producing and Roberts engineered a sound as clear and shining as the light atop a yule tree.
Edited by: David N. Pyles, Copyright 2003, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

 
Gerry Grzyb
Host of the Dr. Christmas Radio Show
on WRST-FM University of Wisconsin

"I am lucky enough to have a copy of a 20-year-old CD full of Stephen Siktberg’s Christmas arrangements for guitar, but it existed only as a Musical Heritage Society release available to members alone. Despair not! Richard Gilewitz uses some of Siktberg’s excellent arrangements on his new “Strings for a Season.” His CD also stands out because of the use of cello, violin, mandolin, banjo, and piano to provide effective settings for his guitar playing. Given Richard’s fine playing, I hope he will record ALL of Siktberg’s arrangements for wider distribution."

L2P Network, Robert Linquist
Although our friendly postal clerks have been stuffing our box with CDs celebrating the Christmas and holiday season for several weeks, we just got our first snow, so it’s time to come to grips with the fact that this year is wrapping up fast. If all you want for Christmas is your two front teeth, than our first holiday selection is not for you. While recognized by his concert audiences (and listeners of his live CDs) as one of the strangest people to fingerpick a six (or 12) string, for this recording, Richard Gilewitz donned a Santa’s cap and focused on creating a CD of heirloom quality. The songs are all familiar favorites, presented in a musical box style befitting of the season. It is simple, yet lush, with a roman! tic, fireside quality that paints a backdrop for Christmas dreaming. Richard is joined on this CD by Tim May, Cellists Laurie Jarski and Deidre Emerson, violinist Gretchen Priest-May and David Webb on keys.

 

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Voluntary Solitary

Amazon.com/ July 17, 2002
Reviewer: A music fan from CA
Voluntary Solitary is one of the most enjoyable CD's that I own. Richard Gilewitz is destined to be pegged as one of the greatest fingerstyle guitarists of our time. The clarity of his playing lets the sheer joy of the music shine through. Voluntary Solitary is full of melodic pieces that will delight anyone who knows what a guitar is. If you enjoy fingerstyle guitar, this CD is a must have.

Creative Loafing/July 21, 1994
"Gilewitz plays charades with his guitar, implying mood and creating impressions that range from the bemused to the slight worried."

DIRTY LINEN - Folk and World Music
In performance, Richard Gilewitz intersperses his guitar playing with so many stories that he almost seems to be a raconteur who's remembered to bring the old six and twelve strings along. Here, only his guitars speak -- and if you have any interest in acoustic guitar at all, you need to listen. He's a fingerpicker, playing his own instrumentals, a piece by Sor, and tunes by Jimmy Page, John Fahey, and others.   -- KD

JAM Reviews - Florida's Music Magazine, August 19, 1994
Simply put, if you like the sound of an acoustic guitar played well and uncluttered by distracting arrangements and other less important instruments, you'll dig this CD. Great tunes, clean production, marvelous playing and even a dubious critical recommendation by Leo Kottke on the back cover. ("Richard's a weird guy") add up to make this one a winner.

Best Cuts: "Mrs. Firecracker's Place", "Study", (written by his guitar mentor, David Walbert), "Bron-Yr-Aur", (Yes, the Zep tune from Physical Graffiti, "Study in Bm" by Fernando Sor, and the best of the bunch, "Jamaicalina". The last one was written for a friend who "apologized to bugs before she killed them".

Solo acoustic guitar albums, no matter how good, can be mauled by poor production if the guitar is not recorded right. That didn't happen here -- the sound is crystal clear. You can almost smell the guitar wood. This is all Richard Gilewitz, all acoustic guitar, and all good. Jam Entertainment News - August 19, 1994
  
Relix Magazine, Vol. 22 No. 1
For anyone that likes complex finger picked guitar music a la Leo Kottke, John Fahey or Jorma Kaukonen, Voluntary Solitary, the first CD by Spring Hill, Florida finger picker Richard Gilewitz should be especially interesting. Gilewitz has been playing throughout the southern states for many years. He's an accomplished player with incredible dexterity and imagination. This is best highlighted in the clear ringing melodic tones of the CD's best original "Jamaicalina". There's also a solid version of Fahey's "Requiem For John Hurt" and Led Zepppelin's "Bron-Yr-Aur". Mike Skidmore
  
The Tampa Tribune - Records, Jennifer Barrs
Although the hilarious liner notes are enough to draw you in ("We're all out to lunch - we just don't eat at the same place"), Gilewitz keeps you interested with his lovely stylings on the acoustic ax. This album echoes the purity that is solo guitar. Forget the electrics, can the reverberations. There is lushness in simplicity, and songs such as "Study" are enough to make you want to check the concert listings. Gilewitz plays Wednesday night at the Tampa Bay Performing Art Center's Off Center Theater.

 

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The Music Of David Walbert
Guitar Player Magazine
The Music of David WalbertMost players are happy to credit their mentors at every opportunity, but acoustic fingerstylist Richard Gilewitz may have fashioned the ultimate tribute.

Rich LaPenna WSLR 96.5 LPFM Sarasota, the "aerial boundaries show"
Beautiful fingerstyle guitar music.This wonderful fingerstyle guitar CD is truly beautiful and one of the best CD's that I've heard in a long time. The compositions are extraordinary and Richard's guitar wizardry is flawless....."

Amazon/July 14, 2007
I first heard this cd while staying at Chateau De Sureau at the foothills of Yosemite National Park. It was playing in our cottage when we walked in and I let it play the entire time we were there. I fell in love with it, because it is so peaceful and relaxing. I forgot to write down the title before I left but emailed the Chateau and they were more then happy to list all of the cd's in that room and I remembered which one it was... I play it whenever I want to wind down or simply relax. I had never heard of Richard Gilewitz before but I will definitely look for more of his music. I highly recommend this cd.

FAME Reviews by Mark O'Donnell
for the Folk and Music Exchange

The true disciples of John Fahey share several traits: a sense of eclecticism and adventure, a droll sense of humor, a thirst for musical depth and variety, and a great willingness to take chances in the name of their art. Frankly, there are not many who meet these qualifications in the measure required. Many are called, but few return the call. One of those few is Richard Gilewitz, who, in the past, has drawn with great success from the Fahey and Kottke well, notably on his previous and quite fine disc Synapse Collapse. His third and latest disc, The Music of David Walbert, ventures further afield as he draws from the work of his teacher and friend, Mr. Walbert, to create a new musical path for himself… and us.

Walbert, a fourth generation musician and composer from the southeast, is a classical guitarist who has played with symphonies both in the U.S. and abroad. All of that sounds well enough, but here is where we get to the part about adventure, depth and variety. Gilewitz, as one might expect given the previous references to Fahey, does not play classical guitar, at least not on record. No, Richard Gilewitz plays in the proud tradition of the six and twelve string guitar, steel strings that is. "Wires," as Doc Watson calls them. Whatever you want to call them, they are a far cry from the gut or nylon strings of the classical guitarist. On this recording, Gilewitz takes Walbert's tunes, all composed for the classical guitar and translates them to the steel string guitar. What, you may ask, is the big deal? For starters, the style, feel, approach, and technique are very different between classical and steel string guitars. Think about it, how many times have you seen someone go between classical and steel string guitars on stage, much less on record. It is rare. They are different beasts. At one level, then, we have an interesting parlor trick. And the next level?

From the first moment, you can hear the classical guitar elements, but with the added sonority of steel strings. The clarity of tone (not muted as the classical tone would be) allows the music to sing and sustain in a way that you simply would not hear otherwise. On Dance and E Piece, the first and eighth numbers, classical techniques are apparent, combined with some harmonic elements that cannot be played on a classical guitar, making both pieces memorable. The second piece, Lullabye, might well have been played by Duane Allman in another life. It swings. Walbert has said that Gilewitz is the only person or student he has ever seen who can smile while playing in a minor key. You get the sense of what he might mean in Em Piece where a certain melancholy is followed by something which might be called impish. Both Song for Margot, a piece for the composer's wife, and Tremolo Piece have a flamenco flavor owing to Gilewitz's application of related picking techniques. On the other hand, a French Impressionist might have composed Prelude and Prelude No. 2. Walbert, like his student, Gilewitz, is nothing if not diverse and eclectic. The title of I Am Eaten by Sharks implies that Gilewitz is not the only one who has an admiration for Kottke. The opening of the piece has that 12-string beat that the man from Minnesota is known for. The final piece, Nocturn, sees a bass signature underlying a haunting melody. Generally, these are quite short pieces, but Gilewitz (and Walbert) bring so much to the material that multiple listenings will be rewarded with revelations both small and large.

Clearly, one of the objectives that Richard Gilewitz has here is to honor and provide further recognition to Walbert. He succeeds in that upon hearing this disc, you very much want to hear how Walbert himself might present these pieces on classical guitar. One can only hope that his now out of date recording of these pieces will be reissued soon. Perhaps the next challenge for Gilewitz is to take some of his steel string compositions and translate them for classical guitar. This is third disc that Richard Gilewitz has made (and the third to have included a Walbert tune or two). One can only hope that there will be many more from both of these artists.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2003, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.


Dirty Linen, JL
On his latest release, noted guitarist Richard Gilewitz pays tribute to his longtime guitar instructor, David Walbert, by recording 12 of Walbert's instrumental compositions. The results are both lovely and compelling, as Walbert's pieces have a complex and melodic base that Gilewitz brings to life. His performance style is very crisp and precise, allowing the personality of the music to shine through. It's the perfect match for Walbert's music. My only complaint is at 32 miutes in length, it leaves you thirsting for more.

 

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Synapse Collapse
Rod Caldwell, All Music Guide, July 13, 2005
Gilewitz' career has been very influenced by Leo Kottke, both in his dexterous guitar playing and his dry-humor stage manner. This is not a bad thing. One could pick a worse influence, and, in fact, his take here on Kottke's "The Sailor's Grave on the Prairie" rivals the original. Plus, the admiration is mutual as Kottke recorded Gilewitz' "Echoing Wilderness" on his 1986 album A Shout Towards Noon (retitled "Echoing Gilewitz"). A newly recorded version of this epic guitar piece can be found here. "Dirt to Dust" is a similar track, mysterious and haunting. The bulk of the remainder of the album is straightforward and concise melodic acoustic guitar, fleshed out by percussion from Gumbi Ortiz and piano from David Webb. His original compositions hold their own alongside tracks by Jorma Kaukonen, John Fahey, and Gove Scrivenor, placing him in the company of greats.

Blues OnStage by Dave "Doc" Piltz/ February 2001
Synapse Collapse is the 1997 release by finger style guitar virtuoso, Richard Gilewitz. Gilewitz is an incredible guitarist who has received considerable critical acclaim, yet remains lesser known than some of his peers such as John Fahey, Leo Kottke and the late Michael Hedges. However, Gilewitz "anonymity has not prevented him from performing as the opening act for headliners such as Indigo Girls, John Hammond, Steve Morse and Squirrel Nut Zippers, among others. While criss-crossing the country, Gilewitz has continued to hone his skills, thrilling audiences lucky enough to hear him perform his guitar magic.

Synapse Collapse includes several new recordings of songs found on Gilewitz' 1986 debut recording, Somewhere In Between, combined with new material that demonstrates his growth and maturation as a performer. The CD also includes a bit of additional instrumentation to the soloist's repertoire that give an added dimension to several songs. Gilewitz' rendition of Jorma Kaukonen's "Embryonic Journey" is deepened by the inclusion of some nice piano fills by David Webb as are "Minuet For The Backwoods" and the finale, "Jeannie Sleeping." On the Gilewitz originals, "Bilingual Fantasy" and "Dirt To Dust," Gumbi Ortiz provides some driving Latin rhythms to add yet another twist to the Gilewitz sound. The songs offer elements of folk, blues, jazz and classical music that are quite attractive to the listener regardless of their musical interests.

Highlights among the thirteen songs on the CD include the exceptional version of "Embryonic Journey;" the delightfully hypnotic sound of "The Sailor's Grave On The Prairie;" and a distinctive version of W.C. Handy's seminal tune, "St. Louis Blues." The CD also includes two songs written by Gilewitz' guitar instructor, David Walbert. "Dance" and "Prelude" are both very well done and offer a nice acknowledgment of Gilewitz' mentor.

Among the originals, "Dirt To Dust" offers a very entertaining and rhythmic sound with a Latin flavor. "Bilingual Fantasy" is soft and flowing, while the title track, "Synapse Collapse," offers several different mood changes and a nice recurring theme in a song that is just short of six minutes long. The final original, "Echoing Wilderness," begins eerily and flows along nicely, incorporating significant use of harmonics throughout the song. The song also includes multiple shifts in style and tempo, breaking the song into separate "movements" as might occur in a piece of classical music.

If you enjoy masterful guitar and a high level of creativity, you will definitely enjoy Synapse Collapse by Richard Gilewitz. To learn more about Gilewitz, visit his website at richardgilewitz.com. The CD can be readily purchased through the website or at Amazon Records (www.amazon.com).
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an e-mail to Ray Stiles.

FAME Reviews by Mark O'Donnell
for the Folk and Music Exchange

Somewhere between the 70s and 80s, a musical and psychic break occurred when the eclectic, eccentric, roots-based John Fahey gave way to the technically proficient, but erratically souless, William Ackerman. The progeny of the latter have grown in number and output, while those of the former have either held on and mildly prospered or have moved on to ultimately uninteresting experimental self-satisfaction. Perhaps it is this break which Richard Gilewitz describes in entitling his latest release, Synapse Collapse. Gilewitz knows the difference between the two forms of acoustic-guitar mastery and falls firmly in the roots-based camp where he has, more than any other current player, moved the genre into the 90s with his own accomplished vision, technique, and mastery of melody.

Gilewitz is quite aware of the masters who have gone before and pays homage to them. But he does so in a way that acknowledges what his predecessors have accomplished, while putting his own subtle and amusing touch on their work. He starts the disc with Jorma Kaukonen's Embryonic Journey. Gilewitz slows it down and puts a comping, occasionally cascading piano behind himself. This touch allows you to hear the tune as you have not before, elegiacally rather than frantically, as it has been so often presented by others in the past. Fahey's Steve Talbot..." and W.C. Handy's St. Louis Blues are presented in somewhat similar fashion, with a Rivers and Religions bluesy feel to both. It works. Kottke's The Sailor's Grave... is much more similar to the original, but Gilewitz's slide work here is exemplary. But where things get interesting is on Gilewitz's own tunes which are highly melodic, combining traditional fingerpicking with harmonic reverb and a perfect touch of synth. All of that is in the title cut. That might be said to be the highlight, but there are many more. I have never heard simple, but subtle hand-clapping and finger-clicking used so effectively as in his Bilingual Fantasy. On Echoing Wilderness, Gilewitz uses a uniquely evocative slide style combined with some great and varied fingerpicking. A favorite is the dark, somewhat menacing Dirt To Dust, which has a sinuous melody and a terrific percussive background making it flow.

Gilewitz has also found some writers with whom he has an obvious affinity, notably Gove Scrivenor, whose bouncy "Gove's Tune" and slower Minuet for the Backroads" add to the variety of rhythms and styles that Gilewitz is able to apply. David Walbert's Dance is another lovely tune that Gilewitz picks delicately and delightfully. The final tune, Pat McCune's lullaby "Jeannie Sleeping" is again somewhat Faheyesque, though with some unusual shimmering organlike piano accompaniment that works well with the alternating bass and melody.

This CD has been on the player for the last two months and continues to delight. Richard Gilewitz gives one the sense in this recording that he is a player to watch, that he will continue to grow, and will be one of those individuals whose latest releases will be must-buys. There is nary a misstep on Synapse Collapse. Rather there are constant surprises that will allow many repeated listenings. The following is said with full knowledge that it is dangerous: This is my album of the year.
Edited by: David Schultz
Copyright 2003, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.


JAM Reviews - Florida's Music Magazine
It's one thing when guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke does a Florida man proud by covering his song; it's a whole 'nother ball of wax when a proud Florida man turns the tables and covers Leo Kottke, John Fahey and Jorma Kaukonen. However, Richard Gilewitz has what it takes to play these songs with both the technical prowess and the imagination necessary to make them his own, which is as it should be in the realm of virtuoso acoustic guitar music. The originals here are equally strong, putting Gilewitz in a class with both Florida's (and the music world's) best. Highly recommended.

News of Record
We've come to expect excellent albums from Richard Gilewitz and this one does not disappoint. From the opening (Jorma Kaukonen's "Embryonic Journey") through the ending (Pat McCune's "Jeannie Sleeping") all is well in Gillaland. About half the tunes are his own and the covers, including cuts from John Fahey and Leo Kottke, are given the same devout attention. Gilewitz is known mostly for solo guitar pyrotechnics, but he adds a bit of instrumentation here. He also reprises some songs from his first album, which one or two of you may have missed. Don't miss this one.

OPTION  -  Michael Davis
Acoustic guitarist Gilewitz is a musician's musician. He doesn't rush his attack; he makes the most of each note. He seems to embody the traditional values of the guitar and shows what can be accomplished when you do. His claim to fame so far is that Leo Kottke recorded on of his tunes several years ago, and so far Gilewitz has used a Kottke-like method of reaching an audience: opening for all sorts of folks and rock musicians, from Indigo Girls to Squirrel Nut Zippers. He begins splendidly, with a version of Jefferson Airplane's "Embryonic Journey", a tune many a late '60s guitarist used to get up to speed, so to speak. Gilewitz ignores the challenge, as he slows the piece down, accentuating rhythms that were only implied in the original. Then he transcends it with his own "Dirt to Dust," which contains some brilliant, understated percussion work from Gumbi Ortiz. His slide skills are put on display during his John Fahey and Kottke covers; he even trots out the "St. Louis Blues" to good effect. This is folk guitar, pure and not-so-simple.

Rambles Patrick Derksen, 28 July 2000
Richard Gilewitz's Synapse Collapse is an acoustic guitar masterpiece. Whether on 6 or 12 strings, Richard Gilewitz shows great talent and innovativeness, as well as undeniable personality through his fingerstyle guitar playing. The album is full of wonderful and creative tunes that really seem to have something to say (despite the lack of vocals). They range in style from folk to blues to Latin.

The first song, "Embryonic Journey," sounds like a pleasant travel tune you would play in your car, though thinking of it as "embryonic" certainly sheds a different light on the bouncy, rolling guitar and piano sounds. But that's the type of thing to expect from this album; tunes sometimes sound simple because of the sheer ease Gilewitz fingers his way through complex series of notes, reflecting how the tune's easy-going melodies mask the elusive subject of the song. "Dirt to Dust" is a somewhat darker, mellower sounding number, with driving Latin percussion. I especially enjoy the part in the track (at the 3 1/2-minute mark) where it sounds like he tears all the strings off his guitar -- it really grabs your attention.

"Dance" is an innocent-sounding tune that truly shows off Gilewitz's prowess at establishing different moods, even during a single track. "Steve Talbot on the Keddie Wye" has very much the same feeling as "Embryonic Journey." Here, I must admit that it is not the guitar, but the piano (played by David Webb) that is my favorite part of the arrangement. That's allowed, isn't it? And I must mention the twangy slide guitar tune "The Sailor's Grave on the Prairie" simply because of the wonderfully clever title (written by Leo Kottke, the revered guitar master).

In the mood for blues? Gilewitz includes that musical style as well, most notably in "St. Louis Blues" (but you could have figured that one out for yourself, couldn't you?) Or are you craving more folk-oriented music? You only need go as far as the next track, "Gove's Tune," though Gilewitz adds a noticeable flamboyance to it with well-placed echoing effects.

In short, Gilewitz's style is hard to put a finger on; he seems quite adept at every form of acoustic guitar playing. Anyone who is a fan of acoustic guitar would benefit greatly by acquiring this album a.s.a.p. Not only is he an extremely talented guitar player, he demonstrates how to work mood into the songs with innovative flair.


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Thumbsing
Dirty Linen - Folk and World Music - JL
October/November '05 #120

Richard Gilewitz has always been adept at combining flashy technical playing and strong, lovely melodies and making music that you don't have to be a guitar fanatic to enjoy. His latest recording is full of those sorts of tunes. "Wazamataz", "Pete's Feet", and the title track show a command of his instrument as well as compelling melody lines. He also covers a couple of classical pieces plus Michael Hedges' "Layover", John Renbourn's "The Hermit", and John Fahey's "Sunflower River Blues". He finishes with a re-recording and rearrangement of a piece from an earlier recording, "Dirt To Dust", that in its six-plus minutes shows how inventive of a guitarist he can be. A guitar album for people who don't like guitar albums.

FAME Reviews by Mark O'Donnell
for the Folk and Music Exchange

Do you miss the late great John Fahey? Does it seem like Leo Kottke simply does not come around to play for you much these days? Are you wondering who will lead the 6 and 12 string guitar in this new millennium? Friends, I have seen the future and his name is Gilewitz. Richard Gilewitz. After his impressive CD debut, Voluntary Solitary, the eclectic and imaginative Synapse Collapse, and the positively elegiac interpretation of The Music of David Walbert, Gillewitz has issued his fourth work on CD, Thumbsing, and it will give hope to all who are concerned about the questions raised above.

On Thumbsing, Richard Gilewitz evidences the range of his talent and the breadth of his influences. Influences first: Fantasia is one of several pieces that draw upon classical influences (this having been written by Alonso Mudurra) and allows Gilewitz to feature his remarkable facility in adapting a gut string piece to steel strings — a challenge that in other hands could go easily awry. Prelude for Lute piece by Bach follows and is handled with ease here, in spite of its complexity. Layover, a beautiful Michael Hedges piece, Gilewitz makes his own. Gilewitz takes on Elizabeth Cotton's Freight Train and makes it sound almost as if he is playing it on a hybrid hammered dulcimer/banjo. John Renbourn's The Hermit has Gilewitz doing so much on the fret board, including ringing harmonics, that you wondered if he overdubbed it (he did not). Finally and influentially, there is a nod to the master, John Fahey. Outside of Kottke, no one has a better feel for a Fahey tune than Gilewitz. Fahey's Sunflower River Blues is done at a stately pace allowing the listener to float down that river with a few Gilewitzian flourishes that make the song new again. An obstreperous individualist like Fahey would appreciate the homage while recognizing the creativity that has been newly brought to the tune.

The real delights here though are Gilewitz's own pieces. The first and title track, Thumbsing, might, before listening, be thought of as a novelty number as it is played entirely with the thumb (surprise!). Upon listening though you hear a rhythmically quirky number that keeps you initially off balance before drawing you in with a Kottkesque melodic line. Have You Ever Seen A Rainbow At Night? is reminiscent of Gilewitz's remarkable work with the classical music of his mentor, David Walbert. Here Richard takes what he has learned from Walbert and extends it in what is perhaps the prettiest tune on the disc. The aggressively melodic Dirt To Dust is a long standing Gillewitz favorite. Someday aspiring guitarists are going to being playing this in homage. Another Kottke influenced piece is Gilewitz's Wazamataz. It was first presented as part of an all star tribute to Chet Atkins and half way though you can hear the Chet influenced picking combining bass and treble runs. Sarah Natasha is Gilewitz's tribute to his young niece. This is not a lullaby as it is rhythmically complex and percussive in a way that would not facilitate the child's sleep — this is a good thing that the youngster will appreciate in the days to come. Special thanks should be given to Pete Mote, or rather his feet, as they inspired two tunes here which give a sense of joy that is infectious. With Pete's Feet and Daughter of Pete's Feet, walking tunes both, one could skip, hop, do a couple of cartwheels, jog along a bit and hike through hill and dale quite happily. My wife swears by them.

Thumbsing will not be easy to find in your hometown record store (presuming that you still have one), but it is easily found on the web. Gillewitz is an inveterate touring artist and hearing the music is one thing, seeing the man perform is quite another and well worth your while. Gillewitz shares with his mentors the deep sense of humor that between songs has you thinking and laughing at the same time. The titles of his own compositions give you some sense of this. Richard Gillewitz will lead us in this new millennium! Remember you heard it here first!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2003, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.


Helium -  Sherrill Fulghum
This artists' approach to writing music is as unusual as his playing style. Teacher, author, guitar player, and storyteller Richard Gilewitz is often referred to as the strangest man in acoustic music today.

Gilewitz studied Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of Alabama and even tried the traditional day job for a while, but the pull of the love for music was too strong. For the past 25 years Richard Gilewitz has been touring all over the world spreading his musical views and tales to fans. Along the way Gilewitz has shared the stage with Kenny G, America, Taj Mahal, The Indigo Girls, the Little River Band, and Marie Muldour.

Gilewitz' approach to writing is that each note is an individual and a group of notes is a society. On his album "Thumb Sing" Gilewitz takes it a step further with each song being its own entity thus providing an album of 13 original and cover tunes where no two tunes are the same. While some musicians carry around gadgets that are like a band in a box; Gilewitz takes his six or 12 string guitars and creates a concert on a guitar all while telling tales so fantastic and wild that they could only be true.

"Thumb Sing" is one such concert. But without the wild stories. Gilewitz opens the album with the title track, a piece he plays using only the thumb on his right hand in a down stroke (strumming) motion. Also among the varying styles of tunes Gilewitz plays a Bach Prelude and the cover tune "Freight Train" with the capo (sometimes referred to as a cheater) on the second fret giving the guitar a sound somewhere between a mandolin and a banjo.

In the hands of Richard Gilewitz the guitar becomes an instrument used for much more than strumming chords.

The Tampa Tribune - "Spin This" Curtis Ross, Friday Extra - March 26, 2004
Richard Gilewitz may be an acoustic guitar wizard but he doesn't jealously guard his tricks. In fact, he lists the key and tuning for each song in the liner notes of this, his most recent CD. But that bit of information will get the novice player only so far. And that's where Gilewitz's magic comes in.

The sounds of Thumbsing are so lush, so rich, it's simply amazing that they were created by two hands dancing across a set of wires. Gilewitz's own compositions stand beside those by Elizabeth Cotton, John Fahey and J.S. Bach for an entertaining set that is testament to the Floridian's phenomenal talents.

Taunton Daily Gazette - February 19, 2004
by Charles Winokoor - Gazette Staff Reporter

Fans of acoustic fingerstyle guitar should take note of "Thumbsing", the fifth, and latest, CD release from Florida-based Richard Gilewitz.

In a program made up of roughly half originals and half covers ranging from John Fahey to Johann Sebastian Bach, Gilewitz shows why he is now recognized as one of the leading practitioners of the art of steel string solo guitar performance.

Playing both six-and 12-string guitars live with no overdubs, and using a number of different tunings and capo placements (all of which he unselfishly identifies in the CD booklet), he not only impresses one with his seemingly near total command of contrapuntal thumb-and-finger interdependence, but with the openminded nature of his musical tastes.

The original "Have You Ever Seen a Rainbow at Night?", has a melodic bump that recalls Paul Simon's gentle and haunting ballad "Old Friends," whereas "Daughter of Pete's Feet," played in open D tuning, includes a dose of gutsy slide that Gilewitz manages to weave in with seamless grace. The following number "Pete's Feet," is a country blues complicated enough to keep any Jorma Kaukonen fan entranced.

One of my few criticisms is of his rendition of Michael Hedges "Layover," an homage to that late acoustic wizard; the articulation is just too bunched and crowded. But when Gilewitz jumps into "The Hermit," his tribute to John Renbourn, the pull-offs and bell-like muted harmonics combine to create the sensation of breathing.

The pieces by Bach and de Maudarra are brief - and probably wisely so, considering the controversy that playing such period pieces on a "folk" as opposed to classical guitar invites.

But it is Gilewitz's original songs that have the most lasting effect: I love the Celtic flair and almost constant wet, buzzing sound he gets on "Sarah Natasha" (made possible by open C tuning). On the closer, "Dirt To Dust," his handling of the 12-string displays a rugged virtuosity not unlike that of Ralph Towner and a willingness to explore outer boundaries, as evidenced by his use of string tapping to create a ghostly finale.

The recording quality of the CD is warm and crisp, but it also has enormous presence, so much so I had to lower the volume level early on to avoid any inadvertent comparison to AC/DC.

Gilewitz will be at the Mozaic Room Coffeehouse at the Avon Baptist Church for both a guitar workshop and concert on March 13 and for the acoustic guitar aficionado who doesn't bother to show up for at least one of the two, the loss is yours.

mwe3.com
Described as ‘a thumbprint of instrumental singings from the guitar’, Thumbsing is the fifth CD from Inverness, Florida-based 6 &12 string acoustic guitarist Richard Gilewitz. Featuring seven originals—along with six interesting covers including a Bach lute piece and tracks written by Michael Hedges, John Fahey and John Renbourn—Thumbsing portrays Gilewitz as a modern day acoustic guitar innovator willing to take chances yet just as eager to point out where it all started from. A guitarist with considerable might and mastery, Gilewitz has shared the stage with guitar greats such as his mentor John Fahey, as well as Leo Kottke, Steve Morse, Adrian Legg and John Renbourn. Anyone familiar with those acoustic guitar legends will be equally intrigued by the noteworthy insights Gilewitz brings to the guitar world.

Bridge Guitar Reviews -  Henk te Veldhuis, March 2004
Based in Florida, USA, Richard Gilewitz has played in many countries at several festivals. Now his fifth album Thumbsing is out. His style is a mixture of styles which combines influences of blues, folk, classical and traditional music. His inspiration comes from guitar players as John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Michael Hedges, Richard Thompson and Taj Mahal. Richard plays as well standard as open tunings in a noteworthy way. The album features seven original pieces by Richard and six contrasted covers including a 16th century piece composed by Alonso Mudarra. When you listen to Thumbsing you hear a variety of guitar techniques. Thumbsing the title piece has a formal melody line with the bass line as a guide. Have you Ever seen the Rain is a very intimate ballad with solid structures. Fantasia, original a harp piece from Alonso de Mudarra now adapted by Richard in a skilled way in a modern approach .Layover, an impressive ode to the late Michael Hedges performed in solid techniques. Prelude for Lute from J.S Bach, is well executed by Richard in a soulful ambiance. Sunflower River Blues is a magnificient ode to John Fahey. Sarah Natasha, played in open C has this profound feeling reminding me of the style Michael Hedges used to play, Richard impresses one with his own unique catching style. Dirt to Dust a 12 string composition in open G has a qualified melody line played with touching deep basses. Richard Gilewitz has found a superb balance by playing skilled techniques in a wide range of styles in a rousing own signature.
 
Rambles.net
This artist's approach to writing music is as unusual as his playing style. Teacher, author, guitar player and storyteller Richard Gilewitz is often referred to as the strangest man in acoustic music today.

Gilewitz studied computer science and mathematics at the University of Alabama, and he even tried a traditional day job for a while, but the pull of his love for music was too strong. For the past 25 years, Gilewitz has been touring all over the world, spreading his musical views and tales to fans. Along the way he has shared the stage with Kenny G, America, Taj Mahal, the Indigo Girls, the Little River Band and Marie Muldaur.

Gilewitz's approach to writing is that each note is an individual and a group of notes is a society. On his album ThumbSing, Gilewitz takes it a step further with each song being its own entity, thus providing an album of 13 original and cover tunes where no two tunes are the same. While some musicians carry around gadgets that are like a band in a box, Gilewitz takes his 6- and 12-string guitars and creates a concert, all while telling tales so fantastic and wild that they could only be true.

"Thumbsing" is one such concert. But without the wild stories. Gilewitz opens the album with the title track, a piece he plays using only the thumb on his right hand in a down stroke (strumming) motion. Also among the varying styles of tunes Gilewitz plays a Bach Prelude and the cover tune "Freight Train" with the capo (sometimes referred to as a cheater) on the second fret, giving the guitar a sound somewhere between a mandolin and a banjo.

In the hands of Richard Gilewitz, the guitar becomes an instrument used for much more than strumming chords.


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Live at 2nd Street Theater

20th Century Guitar Magazine, December, 2006
A modern master of the acoustic steel string guitar, Richard Gilewitz follows in the lineage of guitar heroes such as John Fahey, Ry Cooder and Leo Kottke. Featuring Gilewitz live in Oregon on August 20th, 2005, the event coincided with an event planned by Breedlove guitars and several Breedlove artists and the California Guitar Trio attended that night. Mandolin wizard Radim Zenkl helps out a few tracks but the 13 track CD is pure Gilewitz from start to finish. Fans of the acoustic guitar owe it to themselves to check out Gilewitz as there's few players these days who can match Gilewitz when it comes to combining sonic dexterity, guitar ambiance and humorous between the sons spoken word interludes.

FAME Reviews by Mark S. Tucker
for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

Gordon Lightfoot is a legendary guitarist-composer who loves to make the audience groan during asides, which used to consist mainly of bad jokes, though his most recent DVD is devoid of such, perhaps dropping the tradition. Leo Kottke, as one would presume, is abstract and sardonic in mirthful segues from song to song. Richard Gilewitz follows in that small tradition of players who like to entertain the audience while retuning or perhaps just providing friendly patter. He alternates between outré personal run-ins and slightly macabre offhand incidents, pretty damned funny, anecdotes pregnant with ironies that take on added dimensions as they're pondered. The field could do with a lot more of this.

On the other hand, that's not why he releases CDs, though fans clamor for the barbed wit, as the guy's a marvelous fingerstyle instrumentalist, solidly in the Kottke tradition, a soloist needing no accompaniment, indelibly impressing the listener with the possibilities of an individual's acumen. After the far-too-long deluge of gooey New Age players in a cornucopia of enervations and first-year recitals, Gilewitz is helping re-establish traditions of solid musicianship and daunting execution, a milieu that passed into senescence 20 years ago.

Those who think the wizardry they hear in studio albums must be the result of infinite board tweaking are invited to listen as Gilewitz proves otherwise, unleashing nimble dexterity from the opening moments, pouring forth cascades of chords, notes, sparkles, counter-rhythms, and melodies-within-melodies. On four songs, he's accompanied by ace mandolin player Radim Zenkl, trading off lead and rhythm duties. When they're in town, the California Guitar Trio likes to catch Gilewitz in performance whenever they can. So it's not like he's just another cat who wandered in from the cold. The composer has earned his respect the hard way, through a solid dedication to the instrument, its endless subtleties and possibilities.

The usual suspects come in for veneration: Kottke, Fahey, Scrivenor, Sor, Cooder, accompanied by a number of Gilewitz originals, though all blend as though from a single mind. Thus, it can be said that the guitarist is not exactly deficit in the cerebral department…and perhaps he'd consider donating a few brain scrapings to the rest of the market? It could use them.

Live has a solid 45 minutes of play time, but I wish there'd been the full 80 that CDs are capable of. No matter how often this style is issued, I can't get enough, and this gentleman's thoroughly engrossing. His fretboard convolutions are beatific and the transcendent quality of having so damn much going on in such a "minimal" context is stupefying. The duets with Zenkl only multiply the effect. When you're tired of incessantly barred power chords but don't want stripped-down soporifics, this is just what the doctor ordered...if, that is, the doctor's a bit of a wisecracking loon and likes to practice his art well outside moribund norms.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2006, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.