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Published: 2005/03/05
by Brian Ferdman

Eva! Leyenda Peuana – Eva AyllonEndless Road – Tommy Emmanuel

Times Square 9040

Favored Nations Acoustic 5070-2

There is something about acoustic music that speaks to humanity's primal origins. Long before Ben Franklin flew his kite and much longer before some guy had a blast with lighter fluid at Monterey Pop, music was made on simple devices. Sticks, rocks, and bones were all that was needed for primal man to make his own symphony. These rudimentary instruments served as humanity's tool for expressing emotions, ranging from sorrow to joy, from lust to love. Time passed, woodcarvers honed their skills, and once man learned how to stretch animal skin and innards, drums and stringed instruments were born. Electrification later added digitized effects and synthesized sound to music, but it also altered the effect of a human's touch on an instrument, adding another medium for the sound to pass through before music was created. Nevertheless, some artists still fervently believe in the primal sort of music that is produced by nothing more than a human voice and fingers, and two recent releases celebrate the tactile response of acoustic instruments.

Eva Ayllon is a legend in Peru. The smoky-voiced singer has been carrying the torch for her homeland's music for the past thirty years, playing to sold-out houses across the globe. Now her newest album, Eva! Leyenda Peruana (Eva! Peruvian Legend), serves as a virtual guide to the many styles that comprise Peruvian music. The festejo, a West African-derived genre of music reliant upon 6/8 time, is best represented here by the jubilant "Jolgorio de Eva" (Eva’s State of Celebratory Frenzy). Percussion and staccato piano swirl with Eva’s emotive voice to form a powerfully uplifting number.

There are a number of valses (Peruvian waltzes) on the album, but none soars higher than the mysterious "Contigo y sin ti" (With and Without You). Glissandos from a flamenco guitar blend well with smooth accordion lines, as Eva sings her sultry yarn. The lando, a highly erotic form of music that is often accompanied by suggestive dances centering on the pelvis, is perfectly illustrated in "Cardo o Ceniza" (Thistle or Ashes), as Eva finds the ideal outlet for her seductive vocal charms. Throughout the album, she is accompanied by acoustic strings and multiple layers of percussion played on a coterie of Yoruban drums. Occasionally, an electric bass provides an unnerving and unnecessary juxtaposition with the acoustic ensemble, but otherwise, Eva! Leyenda Peruana is an excellent testament to the power of both acoustic music and the many genres of captivating music native to Peru.

While Eva Ayllon's ensemble uses acoustic instruments to celebrate their music, Tommy Emmanuel's latest effort, Endless Road, uses acoustic music to celebrate his fine instruments. Equipped with an arsenal of wonderfully resonant acoustic guitars, the Australian musician displays his jaw-dropping skill while blazing through 19 songs in diverse styles and primarily solo instrumental arrangements. Whether tackling the sprightly, Chet Atkins-influenced "Chet’s Ramble," the rapid-fire bluegrass licks of "Tall Fiddler," or the manic swing of "Sanitarium Shuffle," Emmanuel injects life and fun into his work.

With his masterful technique, these songs could easily transform into clinical workouts, but he has far too much passion to fall into that trap. By the same token, he brings tremendous pathos to the gently loping strains of "(The Man With The) Green Thumb," as well as standards, such as the romantic "Mona Lisa" and the dreamy "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Emmanuel is a master guitarist, and a master's touch requires a perfect instrument. Thankfully, he has several beautiful guitars to choose from, and each is selected to perform a vital role on the acoustic journey that embodies Endless Road.

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