a literary review
Music Editor John Freeman Offers a Brief Review of Charlie Rauh’s Forthcoming Record, The Bluebell
New York guitarist Charlie Rauh’s third solo record, The Bluebell, features a series of instrumental sketches based upon the poetry of sibling 19th century English writers Emily and Anne Bronte. Like the spare, rhyming verse upon which these songs are based, Rauh’s melodic playing and impeccable phrasing draw us in, but these aphoristic sketches are also underpinned by a poignant tension expressed in the occasional dissonant note and diminished chords. Because of these dynamics, the music has a Kairos well-suited to our historical moment. It’s the kind of record you want to listen to alone to catch every idea and theme.
Rauh is that rare musician whose playing is technically-impeccable but who also has a mastery when it comes to economy and mood. He is tasteful, in other words, uninterested in showing you everything he can do on the guitar simply for the sake of doing it. The mood of this record alternates between singing and weeping, the plaintive plinks of the fret harmonics have the effect of end-rhyming the notes of the scales. Rauh’s impressive toolkit of playing techniques, minor key arpeggiations and sparse chording while fingerpicking and deft melodic runs with the flat pick, facilitate these moods. Each song is purposeful, and though this record refers back to the poetry of Emily and Anne Bronte in theme and style, poetic knowledge is not a prerequisite for getting lost in Charlie Rauh’s playing.
“Careless Gifts Are Seldom Prized” may as well be Rauh’s musical “Ars Poetica,” as all his values of clear economical phrasing, melody, harmony, and texture (it’s amazing how layered and sonically-deep a single guitar can be) co-exist here. Another standout track is “We Were Once Not So Few.” This album, though, should be played front-to-back and again. It is a triumph of grace and attention.
The Bluebell will be released on August 28, 2020 from Destiny Records. Below is a link to a video detailing the collaborative process of making the album art, hand-painted pictures done by the musician’s older siblings, Christopher and Christina.
NYC based guitarist/composer Charlie Rauh has been invited to be resident composer by such organizations as The Rauschenberg Foundation, The Klaustrid Foundation, and The Chen Dance Center. His work as a soloist has been supported by grants from Meet The Composer, The Untitled Artist Group, and The Fractured Atlas Group. Rauh’s approach to solo guitar composition takes inspiration from folk lullabies, plainchant, and the imagery of various poets ranging from the Brontës to Anna Akhmatova. Acoustic Guitar Magazine notes that “Charlie Rauh plays guitar with a quiet intensity, each note and chord ringing with purpose…With these lullabies Rauh gives a gentle reminder that playing soft and slow can be more impactful than loud and fast.”
Photo Credit: Alice Teeple