Acoustic finger style guitar with… Full band? Horns? 11-minute songs? Don Ross singing? Yes! Earlier this year, fingerstyle guitarist Don Ross released an album with full band, titled “Don Ross Louder Than Usual”. And it’s really good.
I will go so far as to say that the album is an inspiration. First, because, yes, it’s really good. Second, because Ross took the risk to try a totally different direction. That’s hard to do when you’re already successfully known for a certain style. And, third, because it answers a question that I wonder often: “What would a finger style acoustic guitar sound like in the band context?” This question has surprisingly few real world answers.
The answer to that question, “What would a finger style acoustic guitar sound like in the band context?” is evidently this: It sounds great.
There are other examples of complex acoustic fingerstyle technique incorporated into a full band context (see Tommy Emmanuel’s “Haba Na Haba“, or Antoine Dufour’s B-Side to “Back and Forth”). This album, however, does it really well. The mix is great, the musicianship from the whole group is amazing, and the songs don’t feel like fish-out-of-water adaptations – they feel like they were made for this.
And this album is not just good, it’s unique.
It’s unique because it’s an entire album recorded in this style, not just a single track.
It’s unique because it’s very “live” feeling with a full band. It’s easier to bring a single instrument to a fingerstyle track in order add percussion, or highlight the melody, perhaps. And this doesn’t change the song so much as augment it. But having a full ‘live’ band experience really does change the experience of the songs.
Most importantly, however, it is unique because it’s improvisational. And I think this is where the magic is.
Normal acoustic fingerstyle compositions come from one brain, and are played on one set of hands, on one instrument. That is both very powerful, because of the control it affords you. It is also limiting because you yourself are the absolute limit of the music. If you don’t think of it, or if you can’t perform it, then it doesn’t happen.
But when other musicians can interpret and contribute to the music, those limitations go away. There are more possibilities, more ideas, and more energy.
You can hear this magic in full bloom on the drum solo section of the track, “”OBrigado (Egberto)”.
The song builds from a rythmic beginning with Ross playing some intricate melodies into a mind-blowing drum solo section where Marques (drums) is soloing over the bar lines and the only thing to hold you down is the groove of the piano. So good.
More About The Album
Canadian guitar legend DON ROSS has been touring internationally for the last 30 years, bringing his trademark groove-based style to audiences in Canada, the USA, Europe, China, Japan, Korea, Russia, India and Australia in the process. His new project, Don Ross Louder Than Usual, is a new collaborative unit that Don has started to achieve some of the arrangements of many of his tunes that, though they work well in the solo context, were actually conceived as working well in a band context.
The core of the band is a quartet consisting of Andrew Craig on keyboards, Jordan O’Connor on bass, Marito Marques on drums and Don on guitar and vocals. The band got its start in 2018 when Don was invited to perform in ensemble at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. Their sold out show was very well received, and made the band eager to showcase further.
- Wall of Glass (11:11)
- Dracula and Friends, Pt. One (5:16)
- A Million Brazilian Civilians (3:20)
- Groovy Sunflowers (3:57)
- With You In Mind (11:46)
- Black Chandelier (3:23)
- Obrigado (Egberto) (6:40)
- Jesse Helms’ Night in Havana (6:22)
- Dracula and Friends, Pt. One (Video Mix) (5:34)