Circle Bar

October 08, 2009


I could only hang with this group for batches of songs at a time because they left me exhausted, in a very good way. I musta worn my eyes out watching the hands of three of the best guitarists in New Orleans--Jimmy Robinson, Cranston Clements, and Phil DeGruy--move like hummingbird wings across their guitar necks.

The group, which has been together since the late '90's and also features six-string bassist Paul Clement, played enjoyable folk fusion, but I was less concerned with the music than with the extraordinary exercises they were going through to make it. The melodies and guitar harmonies they created were beautiful, but I enjoyed them more for the fact that my eyes couldn't keep up with what my ear was taking in.

This evening was billed as an "acoustic" night, as they certainly weren't as loud without their drummer. Still, the only one playing an acoustic guitar was Robinson. It was a twelve string that managed to shine just as brightly as the sounds of Clements' electric. I enjoyed how each guitarist had their own sound--Robinson was acoustic, Clements was clean and bright, and DeGruy was darker, dirtier, fuzzier. I noticed a hierarchy, as well. Robinson was the leader, while Clements took the second most solos and DeGruy the third.

They played originals but shone when they took on covers, especially their seemingly endless medley of '60's and '70's rock covers. Each bit lasted for five to ten seconds, and I'm not sure how long it took to connect them properly or learn the order, but I'm pretty sure I'd be sickened if I did know.

The three of them were each monsters in their own right, throwing out chords that I'm not sure I've seen before. Mouth agape, they left me dumb. I really hate to get too hyperbolic, but their technical excellence is an example of what humans can accomplish when we practice, practice, practice.

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