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Holidays in Harmonicaland
Review Date: Nov, 2008
by Tony Glover
Local club goers will probably recognize Kurnow as “Creeper”, the multi-instrumentalist who was a backbone of both Passage and the Doug Maynard Band, regulars on the 70’s scene. Kurnow, who plays keyboards, classical plucked harp as well as mouth harp, went on his own in 1980 and since then has worked often in pianist Lorrie Line’s touring backup band. He’s also released a number of solo albums, including four for Target stores Lifescapes label. Most of the 29 releases have an ambient/nature bent, with titles like “Eagles Call” “Mountain Moods” “Sky Passage” etc—many feature his one-man harp duets, as he both plucks and blows. His latest is the fourth CD of his career to feature Xmas related tunes—but it’s more than the schmaltz usually associated with that concept—there’s a definite blues edge to many of the tracks.
The one man, all instrumental CD leads with “Carol Of The Bells”, with bass harp providing a driving rhythm part as the melody is carried on one of several overdubbed harp tracks—eventually it builds to a few choruses with a wailing electric harp that adds a funky edge. “Angels We Have Heard On High” is another number with bluesy tinges, played over deep drum percussion patterns. “Good King Wenecelas” gets a similar arrangement. “I Saw Three Ships” is built around chunky & percussive harp chords similar to the “train pieces” many solo harpists feature. “Dreydl Blues” is a solo piece for electric harp, and is just that, a funky blues.
“Silent Night”, with swelling keyboard gets a more traditional treatment as a painted soundscape. “Avina Malchena” begins similarly, but moves to a passionate wailing solo before returning to its moody base. “Amazing Grace” comes as near to a tune beaten to death by over-coverage as any, but Kurnow imparts a muscular emotional edge that enlivens it, a long-held note building the tension. “The First Noel” is yet another mood piece.
Kurnow is an accomplished player and this album is a nice antidote to the seasonal sludge that often infects the ears of the population during Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa and whatever other factions yet to be heard from are celebrating
(Available from www.bruce kurnow.com)
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