"Why are there no great female guitar players?"
In the liner notes to La Guitara, Gender Bending Strings, singer/songwriter/guitarist/executive producer Patty Larkin talks about constantly being asked this question. Her answer? "There are."
Larkin's effort at bringing together onto one cd recordings of some of the best, most creative and accomplished female guitarists is not just an important record of women's contribution to music and specifically the guitar, but something much more immediate and significant. It's great.
The mesmerizing opening track from Wu Man, a renowned player of the pipa, a four-stringed Chinese lute, is called "Invocation" and is, at the very least, just that: a marshalling of the magical, musical forces that follow. Fast on Wu Man's heels is Sharon Isbin, astonishing interpreter of guitar music in classical, latin, and jazz traditions, with La Catedral: ii Allegro solemne, by Agustin Barrios Mangore. Not far behind comes "Let's Go To Town," a fantastic early '30s blues track by Memphis Minnie, one of the only women of the time to record blues guitar sides. And then there's Badi Assad, the Brazilian guitarist whose sheer power and spirit leave you breathless on Sergio Assad's "Preludio e Toccatina." Larkin herself charms with "Bound Brook," a spooky original piece that combines loops and slide guitar to create a sort of dark nostalgia.
There are just too many wonderful tracks to describe here (see track listing, below), but what La Guitara offers is a sampling of some of the best of what the guitar world has to offer, male or female. Classical, blues, jazz, folk, world, rock, original sounds that defy category--all are here in one well-produced, carefully-crafted package.
Aside from the sheer range and brilliance of the performances, one thing that really stands out about this project is its diversity and inclusion of perhaps lesser-known artists (Kaki King, Vicki Genfan, among others) who are making their marks with fresh guitar voices alongside women who are already well-known guitar heroes (Elizabeth Cotten, Rory Block, Sharon Isbin to name a few).
Co-producers Patty Larkin and Bette Warner have done us all a big favor. Next time anyone comes out with that tired old question, we can whip out our copy of La Guitara and blow them out of the water. • Judith Edelman
artist & track list (click on the name to visit her site), plus other links below: