In his day job, Adrian Holovaty is the founder/developer of Soundslice, an online music-learning tool that syncs audio, video, and music notation. In his free time, he’s a fingerstyle guitarist who for the past 17 years has been posting covers of pop and rock songs on YouTube. (The boldest perhaps is a spirited Gypsy jazz version of Aerosmith’s “Walk this Way,” edited seamlessly with Steven Tyler’s original vocals; the semi-classical theme from MacGyver, ending with a well-earned smirk of satisfaction, coming in a close second.) But Melodic Guitar Music, which Holovaty calls his “first proper album,” is something completely new: ten original instrumentals, all deliciously playful, that celebrate his love for melody, improvisation, Chet Atkins, the Beatles, and Django Reinhardt.
Melodic Guitar Music exudes a Reinhardt–like bounce, often propelled by a Chicago-meets-Amsterdam variant of la pompe, the rhythmic foundation of Gypsy jazz, played on Holovaty’s 2016 Traditional model by Portland, Oregon, luthier Bob Holo. Atkins-inspired crispness manifests in the album’s endlessly cool and complex variations, with Holovaty double-tracking himself on a 2010 Martin 000-15M. His reverence for the Beatles is apparent in the record’s perpetual cheeriness and love for melody. And when all three influences come together—say, on “Grand Ole Bopry”—the results are astonishing: sweet, precise, and so light they defy gravity.
When there’s seriousness, like in “The Aching Waltz,” it’s a quiet counterpoint that easily resolves into sunshine, and when the mood turns light blue in “Bluespop,” it’s really just playfulness in a different key—yet another reason to let the two guitars dance across the mix, leaving colorfully syncopated jazz riffs floating over the boom-chuck rhythm. And the melodies? Delightfully clever, exquisitely constructed, and impossible to listen to without a smile.