Evocative Review

Sing Out Magazine Review
By Gary Von Tersch

...This all-instrumental, all-originals project is his fourth for Dreadnought Recordings, and just as entertaining as the rest, as he tackles each composition with a curiosity and energy that leaves a lasting impression. Titles like the frolicsome "Four Dogs Jogging" (with embellishments from banjoist Scott Vestal and fiddler Stuart Duncan) and the melancholy, back-porch luxurious "High Atop Princess Cove," with some eloquently forlorn enhancement from fiddler/violinist Andrea Zonn, prove especially satisfying.

Other guests here are electric fretless bassist Victor Wooten, who shows up on half the tracks (the pensive "Road to Hope and a melodically flush "What a Way to Go" are favorites), acoustic bassist Byron House and banjoist Noam Pikelny (on the genially witty "As It Rolls to the Sea"), along with Grier's album band mates - drummer John Gardner, keyboards/accordion and pennywhistler extraordinaire Jeff Taylor and pedal-steel maven Paul Franklin. Other solid senders include the necessary brief and bluesy "As Easy as Falling Off a Log," the timeless, heartfelt reverie of "The End of a Good Day" and the playful "Teela," which contains some of Grier's most gymnastic fretwork.

Throughout, Grier's unique, kinetic phrasing and inventive picking progressions keep the ears pricked. Recommended.  Gary Von Tersch  Sing Out Magazine - Vol 53, #3.


Pipeline Instrumental Review Magazine
By George Geddes

As the special guests on this CD include heavyweight session cats such as Victor Wooten and Paul Franklin, it's clear that Mr. Grier has some quality musical pals. The layout of the CD and its origins suggest a country flavour, but there's rather much more to it than that. While the moody opening track suggests elements of post-Dire Straits Mark Knopfler, the next one is full of delightfully jaunty finger-picking.

Evocative is an appropriate album title because the third track is exactly that. There's a change of mood for a Celtic-flavoured "Two Turns Home," followed by a bluesy little track which is the shortest on the CD.

There's a definite Knopfler feel to "Four Dogs Jogging," and it's a real feel-good track. David finger-picks his way through "Teela" with Paul Franklin's pedal steel swooping in and out while Stuart Duncan's fiddle adds a melancholy feel to a number which reminds this listener of some of the later Chet Adkins repertoire. In contrast, bluesy Hammond is in support on the rather more hard edged "What a Way to Go" with David wailing to good effect. The Cd title is once again demonstrated to good effect on the final two tracks.

Difficult to categorise, but a thoroughly listenable album with fine playing on an all-original set.  George Geddes

Audiophile Audition ReviewBy Hermon Joyner
Published on February 09, 2010

"An acoustic guitar giant goes electric in this soulful collection of original instrumental tunes."

David Grier – Evocative – Dreadnought 0901, 42:41

Though David Grier is primarily known as one of the very best bluegrass flatpickers playing today, he’s not afraid to explore other genres of music. The last CD of his that I reviewed was 2007’s “Live at the Linda,” a solo concert of his played on his 1946 Martin D-28. I know his choice of guitars is probably not of interest to most folks, but guitar geeks are drawn to Grier the way bees are drawn to flowers and they are always interested in matters of gear. This time around, Grier diversifies his instrument selection. He plays four guitars, two vintage and two contemporary—a 1951 acoustic-electric Gibson ES-175, a 1952 electric Fender Esquire, a 1998 Darren Webb acoustic, and a 2006 Oliver Sprecht acoustic baritone.

Grier uses these instruments as an artist uses paint, creating tonal colors and textures to match the evoked mood of each tune. The songs tend towards moody and melancholy, or perhaps contemplative, depending on your own state of mind. The first tune, “Meditate,” sounds as if Grier is channeling The Doors’ “Riders in the Sky.” Several of them have a pronounced country flavor, like “As it Rolls to the Sea” and “Four Dogs Jogging,” but “As Easy as Falling Off a Log” carries a bluesy bounce to it that’s quite engaging. He does rock out a bit on “What a Way to Go.”

This recording is more refined than fiery; more polished than pyrotechnic. This is the work of a master musician confident in his ability to communicate through his instruments and not afraid to take his time. Though you don’t necessarily expect David Grier to play electric guitars, but he’s a natural at this, too. He’s as relaxed and accomplished as he’s ever been and the songs he’s written for this CD are fully an extension of his musical tastes and sensibilities. If you love guitar and lovingly crafted and performed music, you won’t find anything better. Highly recommended.

By Oliver di Place
What are the qualities I look for in instrumental music? As with vocal music, it must reward close listening. But instrumental must also be pleasant as background music. And, for me, there is one more test. Too long ago, I lived in a space that allowed me to indulge my love of oil painting. I also used to write fiction, and very occasional poetry. For all of these creative endeavors, I found that music helped. There could not be any words to distract me. And, the more finely crafted the music was, the more it enhanced my own creativity. Mozart and Miles Davis were favorites for this. And now, David Grier's album Evocative must be added to that list. As I gave this one repeated careful listens to prepare for this review, I actually had an idea for a painting pop into my head. Sadly, I cannot do anything about it.

It is a not very useful fact, when listening to Evocative, that David Grier has won awards for his bluegrass flat-pick guitar playing. There is very little trace of bluegrass in this music, and none of the flashy playing one might expect from an award winner. What Grier does show here is his skill as a composer and arranger, and his generosity as a band leader.

The band is Grier on electric, acoustic, and baritone guitar; John Gardner on drums; Paul Franklin on pedal steel; and Jeff Taylor on electric piano, organ, accordion, and pennywhistle. You may have noticed that there is no bass player. There are guests on bass on six of the album's ten tracks. Two more are solo guitar pieces. But that still leaves two ensemble pieces with no bass. And, on those tracks, the bass is not missed. That is because Grier gives each arrangement just what it needs, never cluttering matters or piling on instruments. Grier calls on other guest musicians to provide color and texture, and does a great job of varying these elements.

The album opens with Meditate. The acoustic guitar introduces a simple repeating pattern. Soon the drums, electric guitar, and electric piano join in, each adding to the pattern and expanding it. But the time the solos start, the original pattern has become more complex, but it is still recognizable. This builds to a climax, and then comes down just the way it built up. The same simple pattern on the acoustic guitar is all that remains at the end.

The harmonies on the album belong firmly in folk/ country territory. But many of the songs are built like jazz tunes. There will a statement of theme, usually by the acoustic guitar, followed by variations played by the other solo instruments, and then a restatement of theme in the guitar, to finish. The instruments providing support and rhythmic motion often vary their parts in subtle ways in response to the soloists.

Grier is equally adept at slow or fast numbers. Road to Hope is a beautiful ballad for guitar, accordion, bass, and drums. Four Dogs Jogging takes off at a gallop, with fiddle and banjo joining in. This may be the most purely exciting piece on the album. And Grier also paces the album well, placing As Easy As Falling Off a Log, a bluesy solo piece played on baritone guitar, in the middle of the album for a quick breather.

I should take a moment to praise the quality of the soloists. In my review of George Strait, I talked about the sweet sound of Stuart Duncan's fiddle playing, and that is equally true of the three tracks he plays on here. Scott Vestal only plays banjo on only one track, but he displays a great talent for switching without seeming effort between rhythmic background playing and solo turns. And Grier himself gives his electric guitar a smooth singing voice, while playing parts on the acoustic clearly state his ideas while also helping to provide a solid rhythm to build off of.

So here is a wonderful set of instrumental music. The moods and textures vary, but never sound fussy. The whole thing sounds like a coherent whole. And this is music that takes me places, probably a different place each time I listen. Regardless, I look forward to making my next trip.

The Bluegrass Special
by David McGee

Well-known and regarded with great affection and respect by his fellow musicians and legions of guitar-centric fans (he's about to retire the IBMA's Best Guitar Player of the Year award), David Grier is stretching out his new album, tellingly titled Evocative. Which is not to suggest he's doing any less picking than usual-this all-instrumental, 10-song outing is abundant in captivating and challenging electric and acoustic sorties by the gifted Grier, but after two solo acoustic albums he's back to working with other musicians, and this too is good news.

Here he's enlisted some high-profile friends, including the visionary bassist Victor Wooten on five cuts, the great fiddler Stuart Duncan on three cuts, with both Scott Vestal and the Punch Brothers' Noam Pikelny sitting in on banjo at different junctures, Byron House on acoustic bass, Andrea Zonn on fiddles and viola, the indomitable steel master Paul Franklin, empathetic drummer John Gardner, and multiple threat Jeff Taylor adding memorable work on keyboards, accordion and pennywhistle. To Grier's Evocative, rolling phrases in the bright-spirited "As It Rolls To the Sea" Pikelny provides support with running banjo commentary as Taylor interjects subtle, zesty keyboard fills, even as Grier and drummer Gardner keep the ship of state sailing in brisk, forward momentum.

At the other end of the emotional spectrum, "Road to Hope's searching, wistful quality is enhanced by the atmospheric accordion Taylor supplies in between the moody, serpentine musings articulated in the full-bodied sound of Grier's electric guitar. In the bends, pull-offs, slides and chimes Grier employs in "As Easy As Falling Off a Log" lies the evocation of languorous summer days spent without care or concern for the outside world, easy as you go. Vestal on banjo and Duncan on fiddle weave in and around Grier's jittery melody on "Four Dogs Jogging," both have their say in sprightly, energetic solos before ceding ground to Grier's hard charging guitar attack. Playing acoustic, Grier offers tenderly picked ruminations on the lovely "Teela," with added aching atmosphere courtesy Duncan's low-key fiddling and Franklin's soulful, delicate pedal steel cries. In his mastery of tone, in his precision picking and in the way he takes melodies apart and puts them back together, Grier nods to Norman Blake, whereas the rich and varied dynamics he brings to his interactions with other instruments recall the approach of Joe Pass. Heck, when he gets to wailing and surfing on electric on "What a Way to Go," you might even think of a picker named Duane Allman. In a stunning reprise of "High Atop Princess Cove," heard solo acoustic on his 2007 Live At the Linda CD, his graceful, multi-layered picking, so reminiscent of John Fahey at his most spiritual, is shadowed by Andrea Zonn's expressive but restrained fiddling to create a moment of rustic grandeur, something so intrinsically tied to the land you can almost feel the soil beneath your feet. The point being that when you listen to Evocative you'll be transported somewhere else for a bit, where memory summons a whole range of feelings that are the stuff of life. Look inward, and there you'll find David Grier's instrumental music speaking a truth that needs no words to get its transformative message across.
David McGee TheBluegrassSpecial.com

Music Web Express 3000
by Robert Silverstein

American music is really an amalgam of a variety of music-from the old world folk music of England and Brittany to the percussive tribal beat coming out of countries in Africa going back hundreds if not a thousand years. One guitarist who has his pulse firmly on the distillation of American music is guitarist David Grier. Grier received accolades in Guitar Player magazine for his 2007 CD, Live At The Linda, recorded upstate in Albany, New York. Grier's unique grasp of American music comes to further fruition on his 2009 studio album Evocative. Although he can entertain with an acoustic guitar, Grier joins forces with a number of musicians on what has to be among the finest guitar based instrumental albums of 2009. Some of these melodies sound like they could hark back to America in the 19th century, yet the steady drum beat and electric guitar leads bring it well into the 21st century. Assisting Grier on Evocative are top players including John Gardner (drums), Jeff Taylor (keyboards) and Victor Wooten (electric fretless bass). The pedal steel guitar sound of Paul Franklin is noticeable as is the acoustic bass of Byron House and others. Franklin's pedal steel works wonders with Grier's electric and acoustic guitar playing. Being all instrumental, the full bodied group sound of Evocative could easily cross over and make inroads with fans of bluegrass, New Age, smooth jazz and guitar instrumental genres. Fans of guitar innovators like Chet Atkins, Mark Knopfler, Hank Marvin and even Peter Frampton's recent guitar instrumental releases should take note of Grier. Grier devotee Martin Mull puts pen to paper so to speak with liner notes while the neat digi-pak packaging enhances an all around excellent set of instrumental guitar artistry.    

Robert Silverstein, Music Web Express 3000

Country Standard Time
By Larry Stephens

Music buyers tend to drift toward genre they enjoy which can make it hard to find genre-less music - and that describes evocative. With David Grier, a topnotch guitarist at the center, it has a touch of country (think of Chet Atkins when he ventured away from country) and a touch of jazz and a light touch of bluegrass. And it's all great.

Four Dogs Jogging, (Scott Vestal on banjo and Stuart Duncan on fiddle) could easily be adapted into a hard driving bluegrass piece. (All numbers were written by Grier.) Meditate has a country beat and enhancements with keyboard and steel guitar; a laid-back easy piece that sounds as much Dire Straits as Atkins while High Atop Princess Cove leaves you searching for some good memory that's just out of reach.

Instrumental mastery is sometimes driven home like a sharp spike: a hard-driving banjo on a bluegrass number. With this CD, the mastery is there, but it's a smooth blend that pours over you like aloe - music for a rainy day, a log fire, close your eyes and just enjoy it.

Leicester Bangs
by Rob F.

A regular when it comes to winning awards, bluegrass guitarist David Grier may not be a household name on either side of the Atlantic, but amongst his peers, he's highly regarded. A couple of spins of Evocative and you'll be in no doubt why. The ten instrumentals perfectly showcase Grier's mastery of his chosen instrument, while not necessarily representing his bluegrass pedigree and heritage. Instead we're entertained with David Gilmour-style solos, jazzy runs and folk picking. Without the distraction of songs, it's extremely rewarding to concentrate solely on Grier's exceptional playing. Evocative is an instrumental album which is immediately engaging. Records like this don't roll up everyday.

Victory Review
by Lars Gandil

Psychograss member and Award-winning superpicker Grier is out with a new solo guitar album, an all instrumental disc.  Although it claims to  cover a lot of styles and moods, I found it pretty much in one vein. Sort of a soft rock/folk type groove. This is not a bad thing in fact, most of it is quite pleasant. David is a first rate artist as he shows on every cut. Most of it is done on acoustic guitar though there’s a Fender thrown in here and there.

He has some terrific sidemen here as well. I enjoyed the steel player, one Paul Franklin. To sum up, if you enjoy instrumental music you’ll probably like this disc.

Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

For those of us who have long lauded the stunning virtuosities of Ry Cooder, David Grier is a very welcome addition to an exceedingly thin catalogue of players with a grace and erudition that's almost impossible to put into words, a slim roster numbering David Lindley, Lloyd Maines, and a not a whole lot of others within its confines. The lead cut here, Meditate, is a cinematically perfect evocation of slow lazy lines swooping and meandering in balmy Southwest deserts incorporating elements of the subtleties in phrasing Duane Allman was capable of when jamming with other giants (Clapton et al).

Grier landed International Bluegrass Music Association's Guitar Player of the Year three times, over and above being named Artist of the Decade in 2000, so, though not exactly a household name, neither has he been unrecognized. Martin Mull, a Grier fan, penned the liner notes and observes that this release goes well beyond the guitarist's fame as "a premier bluegrass picker…to push the envelope", and it's precisely there—while incorporating jazz, classicalism, and moody Spanish sonorities, among others—that he achieves his plateau in deceptively mannered tones ably flanked by a basic duo (John Gardner, Jeff Taylor) and seven maestros, including Victor Wooten.

This is not a pyrotechnic tour de force, it's not meant to be, rather more elegant than that, chiefly languid and pastoral with rich Americana pigments and mindsets, colors and gestures rarely explored with such a refined hand or so knowing a facility, an art nouveau statement from the prairielands. If you still miss the more elevated statements from the prime period of the Windham Hill label—and who doesn't?—Evocative will succor that absence, a pining we might not want to get altogether rid of, not so long as it keeps turning up work like this. Teela especially calls back to that well regarded day, recalling some of the ensembles centered in Alex DeGrassi and William Ackerman, though Grier is most decidedly his own man.

This multiple-award winner bluegrass from Nashville let us know on this record with an instrumental journey through melodic beauty and outstanding skills, advanced by some of Nashville's most competent musicians like John Gardner, Jeff Taylor, Stuart Duncan ... And David Grier itself is not for nothing in the book 1000 Great Guitarists. It is not bluegrass or other technical music that frustrates you on your own limitations but quiet music without time or place that you leave vacant. The life and everyday things suddenly look a whole lot of sense once you've immersed yourself in this pool of musical beauty. A perfect soundtrack to a stroll through a nature reserve. As it should, these people use the right tools to roots as a broad spectrum sounds to achieve beyond guitar and drums we hear accordion, penny whistle, fiddle, pedal steel, banjo, viola, acoustic bass. Never is hunted artificially acted. Everything is just quiet and free music on its site. A true relief at this time. Crowded conditions, I was forced to draw from this report about my annual trip in the mountains. This CD has the positive vibes that I brought from the wild nature still a piece placed on a higher plane.

The proper vibrations are complementary, reinforcing each other as it were, of course that's just the only way of positive karma. In short, listen to this wonderful CD and become a happier man!