Giovanni Bailo is an extremely accomplished Italian musician who has played guitar since the age of 12 and has a impressive back catalogue of albums and has authored many songbooks based around lap slide playing. These include the fabulous songbook "Lap Steel Collection" for Hollowneck guitar in 2012 which is a must for any serious Weissenborn player. His musical influences range from John Fahey to John Renbourn to the great Ed Gerhard. Giovanni employs many different tunings in his song repertoire (no doubt the Fahey influence coming through). The man also has a very enviable collection of hollownecks from the likes of Asher Guitars, Lazy River, Burgin Guitars, Herrmann Guitars and Reani Guitars to name a few, the man is a genuine weissenborn connoisseur. His playing style in a nut shell would lean towards the classical with a recital style delivery that is both elegant and charming.
"Not So Fast" is a real treat for all you weissenborn purists and as I said earlier it is a follow up to the 2012 “Lap Steel Collection” which was a book of tabbed lap steel music with an accompanying cd. Those tunes too were also very classically orientated. The book is a wonderful learning aid for any hollow neck player, the arrangements are beautifully simple and haunting and accompanying cd is a great listen all on its own.This collection of weissenborn instrumentals is once again a classically orientated collection of original (and some covered) tunes which bar the last few songs has been recorded very cleanly and without effects added in the mix. I say classical because that the most accurate analogy that fits these tunes. Being Italian somehow adds to the overall classical theme, the tunes have a sophisticated aura to them. You can’t help but to be instantly relaxed and at ease when listening to these languid compositions. Giovanni’s style can be a little sparse and technically clinical at times and that does i feel sometimes hold back these beautiful tunes from really blossoming. This sometimes makes the album sound like variations on a theme, each track does kind of blends into the next, but when the compositions are this elegant who cares? Tiny criticisms indeed that do not detract from the beauty of this collection of tunes, they are a gem in the small weissenborn world and any fan of the instrument would be crazy not to check this album out.
Stand out tracks for me are mainly near the end of the CD when Giovanni employed post recording effects into the mix. Track 12 “Summertime” by Gershwin which has a distinct tremolo hazy feel to it, very Steinar Gregertsen in places. “Maigret Down The Riverside” also echoes this theme further, I’ve got to say i prefer this style of playing with the added effects as it creates great atmosphere and adds a sense of depth and mystery to the proceedings. They seem less stiff and formal than the earlier tracks, they flow better and have a more languid liquid feel to them. As if to make the point perfectly the alternative version of “Aquamarine” exemplifies these differences in the styles of playing here. This version is such a more engaging track than it’s clean cut names sake on track 11. “Gnossiene No.1” finishes of this stream of effects laden tracks with a beautiful shimmer reverb lingering in the background that gives the track an ethereal feel to it.
The last track “Old Trains Depot” is a rather curious beast. Lots creepy electronica here, echoey stabs, string buzzes galore and whale song like backing make for an interesting (if not ear piercing at times) arrangement, not my favourite track it has to be said but some people will see the creative value in this conceptual piece I’m sure, but it's not for me personally, there's no melody or structure to grab you and stay with post listening. I hope Giovanni at some point in his career makes a full blown melodic ambient album as i feel this is where the majority of my enjoyment came from on this album. I certainly did enjoy the first batch of 'recital' style classical instrumentals very much but when the CD has such an obvious departure in styles you can’t help but feel the added effects on the CD’s trailing tracks are likely to be more memorable and enjoyable. Weissenborn without reverb is sometimes a bit of a harsh sounding experience and i feel the first half of the album could have benefited greatly from some subtle post recording tweaking.
The cd is for sale on Giovanni’s website at www.giovannibailo.it and I am informed will soon be available on Amazon soon too (as is the “Lap Steel Collection” release already). Check both of these album out as you won’t be disappointed :-)
Giovanni Balio - "Not So Fast"
Review By Aron Radford
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