R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

Simply Music

10 APR 12 CHRIS SLAWECKI

The bright, pure sound of solo guitar music works so well for me in those early morning hours when the approaching day is still soft and quiet and full of promise. This sound doesn't come much more bright or pure than Guitar Music, Tom Ball's 1996 solo six-string set for Kicking Mule Records.

Ball spans centuries of music with just his guitar. He polishes his classical repertoire -- "Variation on a Barrios Prelude" from Paraguay, "Sarabande" from a Bach lute suite, and an excerpt from Andres Segovia's "Estudio Sin Luz" -- into compelling contemporary brightness. Dusty country blues from Lightnin' Hopkins ("Needed Time") and Blind Blake (the Dixieland "Sweet Papa Lowdown") glow warmly, too. Ball's "Old Time Medley" and "Joseph Spence Medley" reach deep into the heart of rural Americana, where there's no country or gospel or blues -- there's simply music.

He even takes on Merle Travis' "Cane Break Blues" and Earl Klugh's beautiful, gem-like melody "Mirabella." How can you not love a guitar player who can move from Segovia to Merle Travis to Earl Klugh in the same set?

Guitar Music is Ball's only solo release that remains available. He has performed and recorded for decades, however, in an acoustic blues duo with guitarist Kenny Sultan as sort of a contemporary Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. Several Ball-Sultan duet titles -- Bloodshot Eyes (1986), Too Much Fun (1990), and Double Vision (1996) -- are still available on Flying Fish Records.