RANDAL L. MEEK
While this is not literally Randal L. Meek’s debut recording, upon reading his biography, this review will treat it as such, since the recording and release of longings is the artist’s fulfillment of a long-held dream. In addition, again, even seeing as this is Meek’s second album, the level of talent, artistry, soulfulness, and emotion displayed throughout the CD’s thirteen tracks would mark it as a superb album even if it was his fourth, fifth or tenth. Simply put, longings is a magnificent recording and signals that Randal L. Meek already deserves a seat at the table with the best acoustic guitarists currently residing in the instrumental music genre. Hyperbole? Not from where I sit.
longings emerged from a profound loss in the artist’s life, that of his wife of many, many years, and that immense grief does flow through a few of the tracks, however, also present are evocations of peace, beauty, warmth, love, and acceptance. Having reviewed for as long as I have and knowing how powerful life turns (both joyous and sorrowful) can influence and inspire a musician, I am not surprised at the depth of emotion present throughout this album’s entirety. What did surprise me is, coming from a relative newbie, how effortless Meek seems to make it. This will sound horribly cliché, but it’s almost as if he was born to make this specific album from the day when he first picked up a guitar.
Technically speaking, since this is yet another in a seemingly endless stream of recordings emerging from Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios, and helmed by Ackerman and Tom Eaton, the production quality is flawless. longings deserves to be played through either high quality speakers or, at the least, studio-quality headphones.
While some of the IR “usual suspects” do make appearances on various tracks, I would be doing Meek a disservice if I didn’t state flatly this is his show. Having gotten to know Randal through many email exchanges, I have little doubt he would state the opposite, i.e., his guests are the ones who elevate his playing, and yes, they do contribute when they are featured, but Meek’s playing stands out as something so special that I would be remiss not to state that, for me, he is the main draw on the album. That said, Ackerman plays lead guitar on some songs, and I imagine that was a joint decision made by both Meek and Ackerman. That does not take away from Randal’s mastery, whether he is playing lead or Will is.
Some songs by their titles and their style indicate an obvious influence from where the artist lives permanently now, which is Hawaii, e.g. “Waves of Makena,” “Mo’olio Place,” and “Liliko’I” while others evoke some of the beauty of his former “home away from home” in Boulder, Colorado (Meek split his time between the two venues until recently), such as “Boulder Sunrise,” “Prairie Dog Sky,” “and “River Place.” Overall, the mood is absolutely laid back, sometimes wafting a bit more reflective with traces of somberness, while other times a gentle playfulness or feelings of peace and contentment are conveyed.
What shines brightly throughout all of longings is the spirit and soul of Randal L. Meek. His artistry permeates every note on the thirteen tracks and, as I mentioned earlier in this review, such self-assuredness is startling to hear from someone who, while not new to playing guitar, is a newcomer to releasing his work to the world. I can only hope he will favor us with a follow-up album, sooner rather than later.
All songs composed by Randal L. Meek
Album produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton. Recorded at Imaginary Road Studios June 2021
Recording engineer: Tom Eaton
Randal L. Meek (guitar)
Will Ackerman (guitar)
Tom Eaton (piano and bass)
Charlie Bisharat (violin)
Eugene Friesen (cello)
Noah Wilding (vocals)