Ever since i first started playing the weissenborn i have listened to this gentlemen and thought to myself he was one of the worlds best weissenborn players just waiting to be finally recognised by the release of a debut album, well here it is "After 8". 13 tracks of pure weissenborn ear candy it show cases the instrument to its maximum potential and confirms John's place at the top table of weissenborn talent. I always thought John had a very clean, precise, technical style of playing that would always elevate him to the upper echelons of the weissenborn fraternity. But all those skills are nothing without dynamics, emotion, feeling, and sensitivity. These qualities are what makes the you connect with the music and not just hear it. And boy has John married both elements beautifully. The album is a triumph of technique and dynamics. All the tracks are sonically exquisite, the playing techniques are executed flawlessly and all this underpinned with a real sense of tenderness. Lets walk through each track briefly and elaborate further….
Finding Basil; Is a sparse stripped back blues piece that sets a bleak and forbidding mental landscape of canyons and a never ending expanses of desert that builds and builds then... Just stops dead! Sonically this is awesome on closed back headphones and I hope John comes back to this theme in the future and expands on this deep rich lush resonating blues vibe that he's nailed on this opening track.
Five; Is a stark contrast to it predecessor and opens up the fingerboard to more rhythmic melodic waves of finger picking and staccato base accents. The track is I would say a technical treat of rhythm and note choice, every note is precisely accentuated to maximum effect.
First Thing; Shifts the mood to a more jazzy lounge room vibe that incorporates some drum brushing and I think a bit of double bass. The result is thoroughly relaxing and actually more akin to a band feel than a soloists performance.
John O'Dreams; Taking the relaxed vibe of the previous track this tune has a very traditional classical feel it, not too surprising because John has used the melody from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, "The Pathetique” as its foundation. The transposition to Weissenborn has been beautifully reborn into an instrumental that haunts you in a warm satisfying manner like a sip of well aged single malt.
Rachel's Song; A song written for John's lovely wife Rachel. The tune has an ethereal feel to it, very light and airy, full of vibrancy and life. A beautiful counter melody sits juxtapose to the steady alternate rhythmic bass plucking. I liked this track first time I heard but now it's grown into a real favourite of mine.
Derry Air (Danny Boy); It had to be didn't it? the old time favourite Danny Boy. This is the first version on weissenborn I've heard and i can safely say this is now the standard for any future attempt on this traditional irish classic. John's phrasing and bar dynamics on some of the slides here are exquisite and technically sublime, its a real master class in weissenborn playing.
Teardrops; Is a firm favourite amongst people I've spoken to already about this album. This track has real depth of composition with its multi layered parts, drums, harmonics, rhythm section, lead, they all combine for an infectious catchy ditty that will have you humming the melody still hours later.
Song For Ireland; The ever present Irish theme continues, John credits the writing duties to Phil & Jane Colclough. A slow serenade style instrumental that has meandering melancholy feel to it. John plays sparsely and precisely to give each note time to breath and sustain for just the perfect length of time.
A Short Dance; Short indeed but oh so sweet, the tune has an almost medievil harpsichord feel to it which is another show of variation in technique that this man can play an instrument in such a way that it phrases like another, amazing.
Waiting For Word; Is one of my favourites on the album. The title perfectly reflects the mood of this instrumental, you feel the tension and emotion in the songs' phrasing. I can't tell how brilliant the execution of the playing is, crisp, clear, precise, dynamic, the man has a gift for this instrument which is to be admired and placed right up their with the best players that have ever graced a weissenborn.
Mr Pips; Arh Mr Pips :-) now this is going to be probably "The" universally loved track from this collection of tunes above all others. The range and level of song craft here is only matched by the delivery and myriad of playing styles he manages to cram into this tune. The melody is instant, its just in your head right off the bat. The ebb and flow of the songs' pace and execution are genius. It has a certain jauntiness to it that awakes even the dullest of musical souls ;-)
You'll Never Be The Sun; This tune has at times a traditional Hawaiian feel to it without being traditional Hawaiian if that makes sense? Once again phrasing and dynamics makes the vibrato and sustain come to the fore and shine. They elevate the melody to a truly serene place, this is a track to get lost in, sublime and heavenly are the best two words i can use to describe it.
Bounce; A change of mood with this mid paced this jazzy/swing composition written by Donagh Long. The title Bounce is aptly chosen because this tune has a vibrant, cheeky demeanor that bounces along with John finally getting the opportunity to play some cool drum backing parts.
To Say Goodbye; Now this is my number one favourite track on the whole album. When i first heard this i told John "This is one of the best weissenborn composition i had ever heard" and that statement still rings true. Its got that magic in it that only the weissenborn could contribute. Slow and romantic it waltzes across your ears like the final score in a golden oldie classic that wells you up with emotions. The tenderness and love John pours into it are there for all to hear, he must have reached deep to capture this poignant moment and share it with us all.
To summarise "After 8" is inevitably going to be compared to Thomas Oliver's debut weissenborn album "Beneath The Weissenborn" and i have to say if there ever was a last super for weissenborn players John would be right up their on the top table with the best of the best. The album is everything i hoped it would be and more. A lot of care attention to detail has gone into making this first impression debut album gold standard and thats exactly what it is "Gold Standard". 10/10
John Wilde - "After 8"
Review By Aron Radford
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