Aptly named, this latest release Spirit Wild, by Don Reeve is certainly wild in spirit. There is a never-know-where-it-will-go feeling about the entire album, as Reeve weaves a moody and magical dream for his listeners. One of the very few guitarists that can make the instrument sound like many, there is a richness here that will not go unnoticed.
Using a mixture of complicated finger picking styles, and employing harmonics along with a variety of other unusual techniques, each piece on this album is multi-melodic and strongly rhythmic. Spirit Wild, the title piece, displays a far-eastern influence that appears often in Reeve's work. It is conversely bold yet subtle, another feat that Reeve handles with nimble excellence. Reeve employs a repetitive theme, yet there are many sub-themes counterposing the central idea. Harmonics create an ethereal backdrop to this work.
Reeve has an interesting use of dynamic, an almost literary and sensual ability to bring his compositions from a gentle beginning, into a frenzied climax, and down again in a denounement. He does this over and over again until the listener feels as though they are riding upon an untamed musical sea. Rain is a fine example of this. More lyrical than Spirit Wild, there is a descending progression that creates a contrary, uplifting, madrigal sound. The pervasive far-eastern influence is evident here as well. Within this environment, Reeve has placed swiftly moving themes that are deeply expressive.
Other tunes include Tickle, a fun work that is very effective but perhaps takes Reeve, as a composer, away from other possibilities. Voyager is dark and enigmatic with a unique use of harmonic tones. First Journey, which may well be my favorite piece, is wonderfully orchestrated and beautifully colored by Phil Steven's strings and Finstrom's percussion. It is however, only two minutes in length, leaving one wanting more. On the other hand, the ominous Black Diamond is a seven-minute piece that fully utilizes every second of the space it takes. Using a hammer-on, hammer-off technique, Reeve draws sounds from his guitar that are downright frightening. Each door that opens in this composition reveals something new and at times strange, but often simply exquisite. It is the most eloquent piece on the album, and demonstrates Reeve's maturation as a player. Sneaky, a playful piece, makes good use of Steven's tasteful violin and Finstrom's sturdy, knowing rhythms. Another favorite, it too is short in contrast to the other, larger works. Reeve has in essence created a genre of music. He has the wit of Kottke, and the mysticism of Kaukonen but manifests a product that lives in a land all its own. Don Reeve has, with Spirit Wild, proved that he is one of the few elite that can match technical expertise with creative power. His compositions are to be respected. While a casual listener might not catch the complex melodies and juxtapositions embedded in Reeve's work, the discerning audience will be in awe of the subtleties that make this album truly unparalleled and in step with brilliance.
Molly E. Holzschlag is an award winning writer and free-lance journalist living in Tucson, Arizona.