Genre: Solo or small ensamble, acoustic guitar
As the name implies, this disk features acoustic guitar sketches, at various stages of polish. Funny thing. Upon first listen, several pieces sounded so “sketchy” (imagine that) as to sound like just fooling around. Indeed, A few tacks do end with a fade, as opposed to a more satisfying “finished” ending. Now, however I listed to the work and everything sounds quite musical, very purposed, and mostly complete.
Acoustic Sketches stands out for its pure simplicity. There is probably far more to a recording like this than meets my ear. But mostly what we get is stunning “living-room” guitar. I did hear a touch of two of looping, and even a romping track with a Tuba, but on the whole this album stands out for what isn’t there. No orchestras, no drum machine, just Phil with Phil, either solo or in duet.
Stand outs:Iconic sounding entry and exit tracks, and track 3.Several instrumentals of hallmark sung-songs (Let Everything Else Go, and The 50th Family reunion) which probably mean more if you already know and love the sung version.
Staccato Blast:Those who are familiar with guitarist Michael Hedges, will hear several nods to his “violent acoustic” approach. (Phil directly referenced his on his album “Wind and the Wheat” and does well with an artful “borrow.” (As is, I heard Michael Hedges years ago on his album Aerial Boundaries (Windham Hill) and assumed the album featured Hedges in multi tracking. Then I saw the guy in concert and found he played a double necked dulcimer/guitar… all at once.) I do not know if Phil is using multi-tracking or some variation on picking while strumming, but Keaggy’s rapid staccato approach is just as startling. Can you really do that with a guitar?
I would give this album the highest rating, except that I think Phil may have eclipsed it with Free Hand, an album of similar conviction but with just a tad more power, variety, and instrumental depth.