Archive for the ‘Acoustic Originals’ Category


Tonight commences Yom Kippur, the most consequential day of the Jewish calendar and the climax of the 10 Days of Repentance. For 25 hours, Jews the world over will fast and spend the bulk of their time immersed in prayer and reflection. As the sun goes down tomorrow night, the gates of heaven will close, and the fate of each individual will be sealed for the next year.

How does one internalize an event of such monumental importance? As Phish reminds us, music helps. Indeed, music, which features prominently in the Yom Kippur service, instigates a kind of sensual, emotional, and even intellectual ecstasy which many people might otherwise go a lifetime without experiencing. It has the capacity to alter one’s experience of time, to heighten his awareness of the permeable border between physical and psychological phenomena, to dull or even suspend his preoccupation with his embodied state.

This jam is based on a verse from the poem “Avinu Malkenu” (“Our Father, Our King”). Its rough translation is:

Our God, our King
Have compassion on us and answer us
For we are without deeds
Act upon us with righteousness and mercy
And save us

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Filed Under (Acoustic Originals)

Here in New York City, where everyone packs into such close quarters, its interesting to observe how directly people’s moods are affected by the weather. The past week has been cool and rainy, depriving us city dwellers of a portion of what in many years are the last weeks of summer.

In comes Geoffrey J for the save. His song, Holiday, is a 4 minute teleportation device to the beach of Venice, CA, where palms, gulls, and a harmonica allow the weather-challenged among us to keep our holiday hats on just a little longer.

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Today is a special today at The AV: after an unofficial hiatus of several months, we are back! (And by “we are,” I mean “I am” – a one man operation is woefully vulnerable to fluctuations in work schedule and personal obligations.) I apologize for the break. Thanks for bearing with me.

The good news is, a three month lull means three months’ worth of great submissions. Over the next month or so, I’ll be posting the best of those performances. Check back in on Sundays and Thursdays for great acoustic music from readers of The AV!

To get us started, here are two of those submissions, one original and one cover, both from students of Boston’s Berklee College of Music. First, behold singer-songwriter Jennah Bell performing her soulful composition Black Sheep:

Jennah’s 5 track EP, Early Bird (listen to and purchase it here), varies widely in style. My favorite is the third track, Monster Killer – a brilliantly minimalist sequel to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, crafted as if by a SpoonFiona Apple hybrid spawned on the cold side of the pillow:

Jennah Bell – Monster Killer by theacousticversion-1

Next, we have 17 year old Joe Barnard covering Sufjan Stevens’ Chicago:

Listen to lots more from Joe at his YouTube page, where you’ll find covers of Coldplay, Guster, John Mayer, John Frusciante, Green Day, Ryan Adams, and more, as well as original songs and looped compositions, many displaying his considerable abilities as a multi-instrumentalist, producer, and video editor.

Stevens’ original, in case you’re curious:
Chicago-Sufjan Stevens by slyleaky

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Filed Under (Acoustic Originals)

Writing about music is an absurd task. It requires abandonment of the usual rules of communication, a certain suspension of logic and adoption of an impressionistic language which the author can do no more than hope that his audience will understand, be affected by. Perhaps the comedian Martin Mull put it best when he quipped that “talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”

And yet we persist. We all have a need to communicate our feelings, and there are few more powerful, more demanding of articulation, than those elicited by music. We want to help others experience art as we do, to know that they feel equally overwhelmed by it. Tolstoy wrote that art is a contagion – a medium through which one who has contracted a feeling, so to speak, can “infect” others with it. By writing about music, we want to mimic the art that has infected us by empowering our words to accomplish a similar effect.

But sometimes words fail utterly to do that. At those times, they can only pollute the experience, interfere with others’ opportunities to be infected, unmitigated, by a perfect feeling. At those times the only responsible thing for the writer to do is put down the pen, fold his hands in his lap, and listen.

The Goat Rodeo Sessions hits stores on October 18th. For now, you can learn more about the project here, or by visiting Yo Yo Ma’s home page.

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Filed Under (Acoustic Originals)

We at The AV have learned a lot through this project: not only about the variety and quality of musicians endlessly challenging the defeatist notion that basically everything worth saying through the medium of popular music has been said already, but also about the people making this music, the audience listening to and watching it, the business through which it operates, and the culture which influences and is in turn influenced by it.

Among the observations we are now able to make is that, for whatever reasons, the British Isles are presently producing vast amounts of original acoustic music. This is not to say that plenty isn’t being made in North America, but there is no question that it’s not to the same scale as across the pond.

It is not for us to speculate about the reasons for this phenomenon, or even whether it is a single phenomenon, considering the multitude of styles which fall under the broad “acoustic” rubric. Instead, we are plenty satisfied to support it in whatever small ways we can. It is with pleasure, then, that we introduce John Dignam, a fingerstyle guitarist and composer from South Wales.

John is an heir of the likes of Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, and Tommy Emmanuel, the latter of whom he performed on stage with at the young age of 17. He has since developed enough to record and release an album, “Down to Earth…,” and to earn a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.

What we like most about John’s playing is that he doesn’t feel a need, as do many contemporary fingerstylists, to put on a fireworks display (which, as you’ll see, he is perfectly capable of) and call it a song. Instead, he shows an understanding of the fact that percussive effects, speed, and any other tricks – which have their time and place, to be sure – cannot replace melody.

We have no doubt that we’ll see many good things from John as he continues to develop as a man and a musician. In the meantime, support his creativity by checking out his website and buying his debut album.

Three Cliffs by John Dignam

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