On Walter Strauss’s new album, For Melody, Wherever She May Find Me, the California-based acoustic fingerstyle guitarist expresses himself in a joyous, ebullient chorus of guitar voices. Some are spread across the different strings of the guitar; some are the interwoven strains of global influences; some are those of other composers, whose words and melodies Strauss adapted to solo instrumental pieces. The sum of those voices, whether they are technical, cultural, or in tribute to another, transcends its parts to create something that speaks to Strauss’ singular touch on the instrument. In a stylistically unfettered combination of tapping, inventive picking patterns, and polyrhythms, Strauss delivers cascades of effervescent, glowing tones that are both impressive and expressive. For this album, he recorded on his pernambuco JB-16, built by California-based luthier Bruce Sexauer.
For Melody, Wherever She May Find Me
Strauss pointedly takes inspiration from kora and kamale ngoni music (both West African stringed instruments), the influence of which flows freely and openly through his fingers. That’s particularly compelling when blended into his arrangements of Paul Simon’s “Born at the Right Time,” Randy Newman’s “Dixie Flyer,” Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic,” and John Hartford’s “Presbyterian Guitar.” Simon’s composition, already born of the world of African music influence, lends itself to such an interpretation and allows Strauss to illustrate and deepen the guitar’s bond with those instruments.
Strauss’s interest in presenting diverse approaches to melody and rhythm also find him roaming through a number of alternate tunings, including drop-D, double drop-D, and D A D G C D. These only expand the wide-ranging color palette he uses for his explorations. In Strauss’ intriguing design of his personal musical realm on solo acoustic guitar, he has also managed to elevate the instrument and the genre on the whole.