|Dimensions||21 × 15 × 1.5 cm|
Internationally acclaimed guitarist Michael Fix has done an about-face with his sensational new album, ‘Two Timing’. Instead of recording his exquisite compositions as a solo artist, he’s gathered together 13 of his peers to record an album of unforgettable duets. It’s an exciting new direction for Michael, who’s spent his life recording albums on his own. “My albums have always been musical snapshots of my life. Throughout 2009 and 2010, I found myself playing more with other artists, so it seemed natural to record a duets album to refl ect this phase of my career,” he said. So Michael began to invite fellow guitarists to take part in the project, and was overwhelmed by their enthusiastic response. They include the legendary Tommy Emmanuel who has been a mentor and teacher to Michael since the beginning of his career; legendary LA and Nashville session ace Louie Shelton; fellow acoustic guitarist Bruce Mathiske; Melbourne acoustic country blues player Nick Charles and one of country music’s most respected musicians, Brendan Radford. Michael has also called in favours from many of the musicians he’s met and performed with on the international circuit over the past decade, including American guitarists Stephen Bennett and Adam Rafferty, and talented young Italian Andrea Valeri.
The album also provided an opportunity for Michael to feature some of the young guitarists he’s mentored over the years: Sam Shepherd and Jason McGregor – both of whom are now carving out successful musical careers of their own. The result is a rare kind of musical alchemy, where the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. One of the real highlights of the album is the exquisite – and highly personal – ballad ‘Martina’, written about Michael’s younger sister, who passed away in 1968 at the age of fi ve after a long degenerative illness. “I’d known for many years that this piece of music was waiting to emerge, and the time was fi nally right to pay tribute to Martina in a song,” Michael said. “It was an honour to share this very special tune with a very dear friend, Tommy Emmanuel, who has been a long-time friend and is like a brother to me.” Tommy also joins Michael for a warm and wonderful rendition of the old Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed thumbpicking classic ‘Baby’s Coming Home’. “I have a lifetime’s worth of wonderful memories of picking Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed tunes with Tommy at his place (appropriately in Chester Lane), back in the 1980s.
“This is typical of the kind of tunes we would spend hours playing together,” Michael said. Michael also has a long history with Brendan Radford, with whom he’s recorded ‘Demolition Derby’. The sizzling solos and musical interweaving leave no doubt about why these two are regarded as amongst the finest musicians in country music. Over the past decade, Michael has established an impressive international reputation, travelling to Europe on extended tours once or twice every year, and also making inroads into Asia, including Japan, and Thailand. His international connections have resulted in some extraordinary music. The album’s opening track, the evocative and powerful ‘Guanches’, was written by, and recorded with, young Italian guitarist Andrea Valeri. “I love supporting young talent, and as well as Andrea, I’m really proud to have recorded with a couple of guys that I’ve mentored over the years, Sam Shepherd and Jason McGregor – both from Brisbane and both killer players,” Michael said. Another version of Michael’s duet with Sam, ‘Optimystical’, was a finalist for the 2011 Instrumental of the Year Golden Guitar. The track has also just been announced as a finalist for the Instrumental section of the 2011 Queensland Country Music Awards – a category Michael took out in 2010. It’s clear that this album is as much about friendship as it is music, and some of Michael’s oldest friends – including Justin McCoy – have joined him to record songs for it. “Some of my best musical memories involve time spent with Justin arranging duets, so it’s a pleasure to have him on ‘Two Guitars’” Michael said. Michael met New York-based guitarist Adam Rafferty at the Bangkok International Guitar Festival a couple of years ago, and says there was instant rapport. “We played concerts together in Germany in 2010 (again in 2011) and audiences seem to love the funky combination of Australian and US guitar styles – and our humour,” he said. Another close friend and regular musical collaborator is Nick Charles, who’s lent a ragtime feel to the album with ‘Victory Rag/Doc’s Guitar’. Nick also joins Michael for one of two vocal tracks on the album, ‘My Sweet Baby’ (with Nick) and ‘Old Guitar Blues’ are both celebrations of the guitar. “I often sing in my live shows, and people kept asking me when I was going to record a vocal track – so here they are! Suitably guitar-themed, of course,” Michael said. While Michael enjoys the creative and personal freedom of being a solo guitarist, he says some of his happiest musical moments are performing with other artists he likes and respects. “It creates a vibe and a sound that you just can’t produce alone,” he said. ‘That’s why recording this album has been a total delight for me – sitting face to face with some of my favourite guitar players. “I do love the world of solo guitar, but there is something undeniably special about playing together with other musicians. “I’m delighted to have been able to capture that on an album.’ From Trad and Now Vol 10 No 5
CD Review by Tony Hillier
He has long been established in the upper echelon of Australian acoustic guitar-slingers, but Michael Fix’s career enters a new era with Two Timing.
The virtuoso’s first non-solo album sets him in duet form with 13 of his peers and provides incontrovertible evidence that he’s no one-trick pony.
The hallmark rapier runs can be heard at the tail of a dynamic duo with Bruce Mathiske on an imaginative take of Sting’s Every Little Thing She Does is Magic and on the self-composed country romp Demolition Derby with Brisbane’s Brendan Radford.
But the man’s all-round musicality is perhaps better exemplified in a brace of exquisite tracks with veteran Melbourne picker Nick Charles, one, a co-authored blues, My Sweet Baby, in which Fix also exhibits his ability as a crooner; the other a ragtime homage, Victory Rag/ Doc’s Guitar.
A dazzling arrangement of All My Loving with New York finger stylist Adam Rafferty transports the early Beatles hit into swing and jazz territory via walking bass and a key change.
Fix’s long association with Tommy Emmanuel is manifest in a symbiotic duet with his mentor on Martina, a beautiful ballad written in remembrance of a long-departed sister, and in their tight rendition of Chet Atkins’s thumbpicking staple Baby’s Coming Home, with quotes from other faves tossed in for good luck.
Opening tracks Guanches, showcasing the talents of young Tuscan guitarist-composer Andrea Valeri, and Mas Que Nada, a familiar Brazilian piece popularised by Sergio Mendes and rendered here in the company of American harp-guitarist Stephen Bennett, give Fix the opportunity to show his percussive effects.
The guitar whiz’s 10th album ends with hardy perennial Danny Boy flawlessly segueing into another Irish air, Ashokan Farewell, with Andrew Toner assisting on nylon-strung guitar.
Fix plays a subsidiary strumming role to former LA and Nashville session veteran Louie Shelton’s jazzy lead on the Nat King Cole classic When I Fall In Love.
Queensland guitarists Jason McGregor and Sam Shepherd trade licks with their host on the originals Happy To Be Happy and Optimystical.
Each track on Two Timing is a musical conversation, with Fix and his guests swapping lead lines and playing harmonies and counter-melodies back and forth.
It’s a dialogue that will be equally enjoyable for non-players and aficionados of acoustic guitar.
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