Sunday, November 25, 2018

REVIEW: DAMON BUXTON - A Winter's Night


DAMON BUXTON 
A Winter's Night
Many Miles Music (2018)

I have extolled the acoustic guitar playing artistry of Damon Buxton for a while now (not as much as I should have, sadly, and that is on me). His first holiday music album, A Winter’s Night (with a gorgeous album cover) underscores the praise I have heaped on him in the past. On the recording, he offers mostly-traditional versions of eleven standards (only one of which is secular, "Deck the Halls") plus a concluding original track, "Bells" (which I mistakenly first figured to be his take on "Carol of the Bells").

Buxton plays guitar with near unbelievable dexterity and technical proficiency blended with a soulfulness and sincerity that makes it easy to discern how important making music is to him. He inserts himself into every note played, investing his art and personality into each rendition, fully committing to the carol, time and time again. This abundance of a fusion of talent and heart means that (for me, at least) his music bears up well with repeat playing, each time eliciting a deeper sense of appreciation and even wonder.

Each carol gets its own special treatment, as the opening "Angels we Have Heard on High" is less celebratory than one might hear at Midnight Mass, but still retains the glory and wonder of the carol itself, albeit subdued. "Good King Wenceslas" gets the up-tempo treatment, with Buxton’s fingering shining as he flies over the fretboard with ease and grace. One of the aspects of Buxton’s recordings I admire is how, while he doesn’t settle in on one tempo or mood, he finds a way to "bridge" the differences without causing a "disconnect" in the listener. "O Come All Ye Faithful" goes mid-tempo which fits quite well even though, as a sung carol, this can sometimes become quite powerful. Beethoven’s tried-and-true "Ode to Joy" is treated to an introspective interpretation making this carol, which is played to death during the seasons for many of us, sound fresh, given a more introspective rendering. "Deck the Halls" injects a healthy dose of English folk music elements, appropriately so, and lightens the mood, but not distractingly so. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," a carol I always felt was meant to be melancholic and somewhat somber, is played slightly up-tempo but retains the feeling of somberness and subtle sensation of shadow. "What Child Is This" (sometimes referred to as "Greensleeves") aptly displays Buxton’s nuanced fingering and he pares the carol down to the bare essentials, in my opinion, which befits the emotional core of the song. The concluding original "Bells," showcases Buxton’s composing skills, which I have lauded numerous times before. Also, his business acumen, as by placing it last, should the listener only want "traditional" carols, one can end the album there. However, the mood and tone of the piece certainly fits in with what has preceded it here.

A Winter’s Night should be appreciated for its emotional core and its musicality, both of which unfurl throughout the album. Damon Buxton has given us an album that is versatile enough to be played (at low volumes) in the late evening for relaxation or at a louder setting for meal times or gatherings of loved ones. What more can one ask for?

A Winter's Night is available at Amazon, Bandcamp, and iTunes.

2 comments:

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