If you have not been following the career of the instrumental acoustic-guitar group Terra Guitarra, then let me tell you that they just keep getting better and better which is quite a feat because they have always been sensational. They have a new album called OF SEA & STARS that is full of great melodies, fancy picking and enticing arrangements.
This is a duo with both partners playing acoustic guitars. The lead-guitarist and composer is Bruce Hecksel and he is a towering giant of a soloist, ripping off speedy and sparkling lead lines on what sounds like a classical or Spanish-style guitar. Laying down a solid foundation for him to solo over is Julie Patchouli who plays rhythm guitar on what sounds like (to my ears) both classical and some steel-string guitar. You especially hear what sounds like a steel-string when she finger-picks rather than strums. Either way she is rock-bottom steady and makes a very full-throated, broad-spectrum sound that probably fills a concert hall wall-to-wall (and these two apparently play hundreds of shows a year!). When recording, both players also add bass and various drums and percussion. In addition, Hecksel also plays cedar flute (Native American style) on a couple of pieces. Their sound is generally based in the world of Latin-style guitar, but they keep broadening the perimeters. When I first heard their music a couple of years ago it sounded more in the nouveau flamenco genre as first popularized by Ottmar Liebert. But with this release there is only some of that sound and the rest seems to be a bit more universal.
This group always seems to have deeper intentions than just feel-good, fun-to-hear music. They make the point, in their background materials, that they named the album OF SEA & STARS because “our biological makeup is saltwater and stardust,” something I had not really thought about before. They also point out that for many millenniums humans explored and crossed the planet’s seas and oceans, and now we are taking our first few tentative steps out into the next unexplored territory, outer space, as we reach for the stars.
They play tunes that are fast, mid-tempo and slow, take your pick. I seemed drawn to several of the mid-tempo ones such as “Viracocha,” that has a relaxed, mellow, sailing, fluid flow to it (like a sailboat on a mild day). “Whale Earth” also has a very nice pace to it, as it just moves along easily with a fairly slow rhythm. All the music is original except for a cover version of “Zorbas” which originated as the stand-out Grecian islands dance music when the old movie “Zorba the Greek” came out.
The more you play this music, the more it insinuates itself into your soul, your psyche, your life. Just cannot seem to get enough of it lately, and that has got to be the highest praise I could give it.