From the July 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY DERK RICHARDSON
Detroit Twelve String: Blues & Rags
(Third Man Records)
Everything about Todd Albright’s second record hollers “vintage.” The eight-song Detroit Twelve String EP, the follow-up to the Detroit-based guitarist’s 2016 LP debut, Fourth Floor Visitor (Jett Plastic), was released on vinyl. Its repertoire includes traditional country blues by or associated with Blind Willie McTell (“Savannah Mama,” “Kill It Kid,” “Delia”), Lead Belly (“Sweet Mary Blues”), Skip James (“Cherry Ball Blues”), Frank Hutchison (“Train that Carried My Gal from Town”), George Carter (“Rising River Blues”), and Blind Blake and Gus Cannon (“My Money Never Runs Out”). And Albright, a blues fanatic since he first heard a John Lee Hooker album, recorded this one on a Fenezia model 12-string (with walnut back and sides), commissioned from luthier Todd Cambio of Fraulini Guitars, who is similarly obsessed with the sounds of the 1920s and ’30s.
As Cambio wrote on his blog, he based Albright’s Fenezia on “the Auditorium-sized guitars made in independent shops operated by Italian immigrants in New York . . . the favorite of top jazz and ‘hillbilly’ recording artists,” and it has a “nice hollow, old-time tone.” Albright plays it fingerstyle with powerful authority, generating a huge sound with coarse timbres. He toys with the beat, much as his forebears did, and his raw singing adds emotional authority, as well. Where authenticity might be too much of a good thing for some listeners, it’s in the overall sonics of the recording. Produced by Kenny Tudrick at the Black River House in rural Michigan, Detroit Twelve String is aurally rough-hewn—with the volume turned up, the heavily chorded 12-string approaches the bright jangle you anticipate from the instrument, but Albright’s vocals hang back, somewhat muddied in the mix.
The character and emotional vibe of the performance are delicious, how much so hinges on your appetite for a finished product that almost sounds like it was recorded in 1929.
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.