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Old Friends

March 8, 2007

Madison, Wisconsin, my hometown, has an active street-music scene -- mostly in the summer months, of course. One of my friends, John Hasbrouck, a finger-picker of rare skill, played with many of the street musicians while we were both in college. Much of my appreciation for solo guitar comes from sitting in John's music-covered apartment and listening to him play. I was the appreciative audience for many impromptu concerts.

Fast-forward 20 years. John is a working musician living in Chicago. He plays in a number of bands and has released two solo CDs, both of which he kindly sent me. As always, his technique is impeccable -- John teaches finger-picking -- but his interpretive skills have taken a few giant steps forward. That's what 20 years of refining your craft will do. Like Michael Hedges, John seemingly wraps himself around a song, conveying an understanding of it from the inside out.

His first CD, Ice Cream [Ruthless Rabbit Records RRR1961], has his distinctive version of "As Time Goes By," which I remember from all those years ago, along with a bluesy original titled "The Last Time I Saw Abraham," which has been popular whenever I play it at audio shows. The CD's packaging is cool too -- the disc and inner tray look like the National resonator guitar John often plays. John's latest disc, Some These Days [Ruthless Rabbit Records RRR1964], is mostly originals, a few of which he recorded himself. John sings on both CDs, but the lightning comes from his fingers.

If you admire the playing of Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke, John Renbourn or any the bluesmen with two-word first names, you should pick up Ice Cream and Some These Days right away. You can order both from www.johnhasbrouck.com, where you can also find out the dates for John's gigs in the Chicago area. Listening to John's playing on my tricked-out audio rig is a pleasure of great magnitude -- like hearing a voice from the past....Marc Mickelson, editor@soundstage.com


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