Review: Teja Gerken’s ‘Test of Time’ Is a Sonic Marvel from Top to Bottom

The Bay Area fingerstyle guitarist’s third solo album features a terrific mix of styles and influences and definitely lives up to its title.
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Teja Gerkien, Photo: Mischka Gerken

A longtime member of the San Francisco Bay Area fingerstyle guitar community—as well as a writer/editor at Acoustic Guitar for 16 years before co-founding the stringed instrument lesson site Peghead Nation in 2014—Teja Gerken records infrequently, but when he does it’s always a cause for celebration. Test of Time is just his third solo album (On My Way came out in 1999 and Postcards in 2005), though my favorite of his previous releases is his marvelous 2020 Duets album with Doug Young (another AG contributing writer). Young has his fingerprints on this one as well, co-engineering two tracks and mixing and mastering the album, which is a sonic marvel from top to bottom—every detail and nuance in Gerken’s impeccable playing can be heard so clearly. 

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Teja Gerken, Test of Time (tejagerken.com)

Test of Time is typical of Gerken’s solo live performances—in fact all ten tracks are pieces that he’s played onstage but never recorded. There’s a terrific mix of styles and influences, from Celtic (“The Kerfunken Jig”) to a jazz classic (John Coltrane’s “Naima”) to J.S. Bach (a short minuet originally for keyboard) to an original Kottke-esque 12-string ramble (“Takoma”) to a mournful, centuries-old Scottish ballad (“Neil Gow’s Lament for the Death of His Second Wife,” played with tremendous subtlety and sensitivity on a National resonator). Gerken’s other heartfelt, melodic originals paint many different moods and feelings; particularly moving is his ode to his daughter’s birth, “11:11 PM.” 

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Aside from the aforementioned resonator (a 1997 Reso-Phonic Style 1 Tricone), Gerken’s arsenal on the album includes a bright, glistening 1999 Lowden 010; a warm-sounding 2004 Martin Custom Shop OM; and a rich and resonant 2000 Taylor 355 12-string. Their differences bring another layer of variety to the program, as does his creative employment of multiple tunings, including DADGAD (fantastic on “Naima”!), CGDGGD, CGDGCD, CGDDBD, and CGCGCD. 

All in all, Test of Time is a beautiful and deeply satisfying album that definitely lives up to its title, whether you’re mostly into technique and guitars, or just a casual fan (like me).  

Blair Jackson
Blair Jackson

Blair Jackson is the author of the definitive biography Garcia: An American Life and was senior editor at Acoustic Guitar before retiring in 2023.

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