I can count on one hand the number of steel-string guitar duo instrumental albums that come my way each year, which is a shame, because I find the intertwining of two guitars both mesmerizing and exciting when done well—as it is on this extraordinary collaboration by noted Pacific Northwest fingerstyle masters Jamie Stillway and Eric Skye. On Home on the Midrange, they put on a flatpicking clinic over the course of eight original tunes, four by each, all of them showcases for their intuitive chemistry, their improvisational imagination (only one song is under five minutes), and rich guitar vocabulary. If forced to generalize, I’d say that Skye pieces like “Locklander’s Reel” and “Coryell’s Ferry” sound like they have roots in the Celtic world and Appalachia, whereas Stillway dips a bit more into blues and traditional American folk—“Don’t I Know You?” and her loping “Home on the Midrange” are examples that seem to draw on both.
Each writes beautiful, catchy melodies which are typically stated at the top of each piece, then developed and expanded upon through a series of improvised passages, trading solos back and forth, and tied up satisfyingly at the end. The improv variations never stray too far from the main themes, but that is not to suggest they are predictable; they’re not.
Both musicians play magnificent-sounding custom Santa Cruz Guitar Company axes on the album—Skye his signature 00; Stillway a 000 commissioned for this project—captured perfectly by engineer Cory Gehrich and mixed by Skye. You’ll hear Skye on the left, Stillway on the right. Highly recommended!
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.