Billy McLaughlin is another in a line of post-Michael Hedges
, two-handed acoustic guitarists, whacking and thwacking their instruments with hammer-ons, pull-offs, and anything else to extend their range. On his latest album, Out of Hand
, McLaughlin goes beyond the guitar, adding in drum machines for trip-hop grooves and global percussion from Steve Tibbetts
's percussive partner, Marc Anderson. Toss in touches of electric guitar and keyboard, and McLaughlin's Out of Hand
suddenly sets him apart from the Hedges wannabes. That works to his detriment on the overwrought workout of the Eagles
' "Best of My Love" and the smooth-jazz bid of "Flying Dream." Those overproduced pieces are disappointing, given the way McLaughlin makes machine grooves sound rootsy with blues bends and country twangs on "Out of Hand" and "Midwatch." Yet the intricate movements of "Clockshop" and "Hold On to Forever" reveal a guitarist who is original in just picking his strings. --John Diliberto
"This is what acoustic guitar will sound like in the next millennium," Billy McLaughlin boldly asserts in the liner notes to his second CD. Well, if that's the case, the next thousand years will be funky, bluesy, and full of vigor and adventure.
The opening track begins with a dramatic synth-orchestra overture that carries on as an undercurrent of the main melody set to a thick, shuffle beat by drummer Kirk Johnson (known for his stints with The Artist). From there, McLaughlin experiments effectively with his surroundings while keeping spry fingerstyling the focus of each tune. By using a subtle, synth-created pipes harmony, he turns the meditative "Candleman" into a spiritual Celtic journey. "Midwatch" is like a Shahin & Sepehr tune with its colorful mix of zesty flamenco stylings and thick retro-soul flavors.
The only drawbacks are the simple, slow solo ballads, which are nice but come across as a letdown next to more spirited offerings. But these are small detractors, especially in light of McLaughlin's wacky blues/folk/ funk take on the Eagles' "Best of My Love." On that tune, his strings do a cat-and-mouse dance with his brother Michael's muted trumpet above a stew of live drums and drum machines. Then Billy pulls out the electric and lets loose over a bed of synth orchestration.
--- Jonathan Widran, JAZZIZ Magazine Copyright © 2000, Milor Entertainment, Inc. -- From Jazziz