I've Got The House To Myself Review
DAVID GRIER: I’VE GOT THE HOUSE TO MYSELF
0201, Dreadnought Recordings, PO Box 60351, Nashville, TN 37206-0351
Acoustic guitar virtuoso David Grier offers a real treat on his latest release, playing without any other accompaniment on the recording. The tunes are mostly well-known pieces like “John Henry” and “Bill Cheatum”. Grier’s flatpicking style gives these songs a fresh sound while retaining much of their original traditional flavor. Two original pieces are also listed including the title track. While both are interestingly crafted and exceptionally well played, it is Grier’s take on the familiar pieces that gets your attention. One wonders what Grier will do next. His six-minute version of “Evening Prayer Blues” stands as a centerpiece, both to this album and Grier’s distinguished overall body of work. County Sales Newsletter called this release “simply one of the best guitar records we’ve ever heard.” They got it right. (Allen Price)
I’ve Got The House To Myself
Playing time: 46:24
The acoustic guitar is a bewitching combination of new possibilities and technical limitations, and few see more of the former and accept fewer of the latter than David Grier of Nashville.
Son of former Bill Monroe banjo player Lamar Grier, David has been dazzling bluegrass fans since his teens, when he got to spend time with his musical touchstone, the late, great Clarence White.
What White could do like nobody else was play what was then the second dullest instrument in the bluegrass band (after the bass) as a lead instrument, with all the finesse and fire of the fiddle, banjo or mandolin. A small handful can claim to walk in those footsteps, and fans of old-time country music should know about Tony Rice and Doc Watson. But Grier’s quiet decade at the forefront of the art has proven that he has carried
White’s insights to their most complex and musically inviting ends.
It’s hard enough for an acoustic guitar picker to take a good solo in the speedy bluegrass genre with instrumental support. Playing alone is just foolhardy, but here, Grier presents 13 tunes either alone or with his own accompaniment via over-dubbing, and you’d never think you’d need a band. That is to say, you don’t need to be a picker to recognize this as a masterpiece, but it helps.
Traditional tunes such as Bill Cheathum, the opener, breathe with dance-step rhythms and lovely old-time melodies that get interpreted and inverted. Black Mountain Rag, a flatpicker standard, cavorts all over the neck at breakneck speed. John Henry applies Grier’s dexterity to the Maybelle Carter scratching style of yore, using droning notes to perfection.
A hidden track presents the antique Leather Britches with no boundaries. Grier willfully jumps styles, fools around and shows off. It ends with a slow fade of ever-multiplying ideas, as if he could just go on like that forever without repeating himself, and he’s given no indications yet that he couldn’t.
Craig Havighurst, Nashville Tennessean 1/6/2003
I’ve Got The House To Myself
Playing time: 46:24
There’s something about an unaccompanied acoustic that encourages intimacy. Most comfortably played sitting down, the wooden box invites the listener to sit down, too, and lean forward to catch the subtleties of its gentle tone. It would be a mistake to destroy such informality with off-putting displays of speed and flash, and David Grier doesn’t make that mistake on “I’ve Got the House to Myself”, his new album of 13 unaccompanied acoustic-guitar performances.
Oh, there are moments when Grier breaks into a run of swift, slippery notes, but those musical geysers seem to spring inevitably from the tension created by his patiently repeated figures. It’s the perfectly paced rhythm and glowing tone of those figures that most impress, not the dime-a-dozen displays of speed. And like his obvious antecedents- Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Clarence White, and Bert Jansch- Grier is able to sustain bass lines, rhythm chords and single-note melodies simultaneously without multi-tracking.
“I’ve Got the House to Myself “ contains two originals by Grier (a D.C. native and Nashville resident), 10 well-known tunes such as “Sally Gooden”, “Arkansas Traveler”, and “Black Mountain Rag”, and a six-minute version of Deford Bailey’s “Evening Prayer Blues”. A hidden track at the end offers an extra five minutes of freewheeling improvisation. The tremendous discipline behind this music is so well disguised that is seems utterly relaxed and welcoming.
-Geoffrey Hines, Washington Post
I’ve Got The House To Myself
Playing time: 46:24
He may not carry quite the same high profile, flashy reputation as a Tony Rice, or the cult following of a Norman Blake, but over the past decade and more David Grier has continued to establish his credentials as one of the premier acoustic guitarists of the times. Certainly, he’s garnered a following through some more progressive work, such as his recent collaboration with mandolinist Matt Flinner and bassist Todd Phillips, but longtime observers of the bluegrass scene are also familiar with his work in years past with traditionalists like. And, of course, his bluegrass pedigree derives in no small measure from the fact that his father, Lamar Grier was among the more significant names in the long list of men who played banjo for Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys.
The title of this solo- literally- album suggests that these are tunes that Grier plays for his own amusement. There are a couple of tunes where a second guitar can be heard, but since no other musicians are credited, the assumption is that Grier is overdubbing himself on these tracks. The focus, though, is squarely on Grier’s direct, clear picking style that, while allowing some latitude for ornamentation and straying from the melody, still allows each and every note to be heard and savored- the kind of picking that says, “I can play faster, but I don’t have to.” The title track and one other are Grier originals, but the remaining eleven are, but one, traditional tunes that Grier puts a distinctive stamp on. The one other non-trad tune, though, may be the album’s most arresting track, and acoustic rendition of “Evening Prayer Blues”, written and made famous by the early, African American Opry star Deford Bailey. As this disc shows, David Grier devotes a lot of thought and feeling to the music he plays.
- JL, Sing Out, Summer 2003
I've Got the House to Myself Review
No Depression magazine review of I've Got the House to Myself
Waxed - Record Review from Issue #42 Nov-Dec 2002
By David Baxter
David Grier has a fine bluegrass pedigree; during the 1960s and ’70s, his father, Lamar, played banjo for both Bill Monroe and Hazel Dickens. However, as a member of bands such as Psychograss and Phillips, Grier, & Flinner, his own recent work has often tended toward the avant-garde. This record is neither traditional bluegrass nor reckless jamming. It is impressive, solid, and — though this seems at odds with Grier’s colorful personality — conservative flatpicking.
I’ve Got The House To Myself is a true solo album; Grier’s acoustic guitar needs no supporting cast. Nearly half the songs are traditional fiddle and banjo tunes: “Bill Cheatum”, “Turkey In The Straw”, “John Henry”, “Sally Gooden”, “Arkansas Traveler”. There are also a couple self-penned numbers, as well as a cover of DeFord Bailey’s “Evening Prayer Blues”. The lovely “Ookpic Waltz” stands out as a personal favorite.
One could easily stick this disc in the changer with Doc Watson & Son and Norman Blake’s Whiskey Before Breakfast. Grier’s work is clearly a product of the present millennium, but one can detect the subtle influences of earlier stylists. Which is not to suggest this is a simplistic recording — Grier’s timing is instinctive, and his technique is flawless. He is quite capable of pyrotechnics, but he saves all that for his Rice-meets-Hendrix reading of “Little Britches”, included here as a hidden bonus track.
Ultimately, though, this album isn’t about mind-numbing virtuosity. And there’s much to be said for talent tempered by restraint.
I’ve Got The House To Myself
Playing time: 46:24
Don’t let the traditional song titles like “Bill Cheatum,” and “Turkey In The Straw,” lull you into thinking this is just another album of traditional favorites. There’s a lot more to David Grier than that. You’ll find it out for yourselves when you hear this CD, very well done, performed completely on solo guitar.
One of Acoustic Guitar magazine’s “Artists of the Decade,” David shows just how good he is as an inventive musician, arranger, and composer. By recording a CD completely on solo guitar David takes on a task laden with challenges and not only hurdles everyone, but he makes it extremely interesting. His technique is “staggering,” his music “. . . breaks free with unfettered explosive invention,” says Tim O’Brien, on each of the 13 tunes, including two original compositions and a haunting backwoods blues number written by Deford Bailey. He takes divine liberties with old favorites like the opener, “Bill Cheatum,” creating some exquisite mood changes throughout, and, at the same time, introducing the listener to the wonderful things to come. There are times he blows you away with powerful single string runs, then comes back on the next cut with a gentle chordal or cross-picking movement that leaves you breathless in its beauty. “The Gal I Left Behind Me” features some gorgeous chord changes, while the two versions of “Sally Goodin” may sound alike, let the CD play out until it stops as you’re in for a fine surprise. Just don’t try to put any modifiers like bluegrass or country to David’s mastery of the guitar; he can do it all.
More than musicianship, this is a fine recording from the engineering side. There’s a real feel of a “live performance” here, complete with the occasional subtle effect as David moves his fingers across the strings. Close your eyes and you can almost picture him sitting on the living room couch in front of you, rocking back and forth as he spins his musical magic. Just be prepared to be amazed. (JF) Bluegrass Now Magazine
By Steve Romanoski
While most guitarists would never entertain the idea, there have been only a handful of players who have brought their art to a level where they could actually record a brilliant instrumental work as a solo project. Then again, David Grier is not a prototypical guitar player and his most recent release, I'VE GOT THE HOUSE TO MYSELF is an introspective portrait of a guitarist who knows no limits in his art.
David Grier is a guitar player with substance! He can produce a sensitive waltz alongside a fiddle tune played at breakneck speed without losing the element of taste. Thus, when David set down his version of the ol' war-horse "Arkansas Traveler," I was amazed at the ongoing flow of the piece matched against his innovative variations of the theme. Grier experiments with sound and texture in his music. In "Arkansas Traveler" he blasts from the gate with a rippling effect in the melodic statement and rehashes this technique throughout the tune and then to the remainder of the recording. Grier then progresses to a point where he alters the melody with improvisation of phrasing and melodic context without ever leaving the rippling totally behind. Another example is found in the lushly arranged version of "Turkey in the Straw." This time David explores the piece by slowing down a tune that's normally a barn-burner. And, if you've ever felt that a tune is just too simple to put any emphasis on, then try again. Performed this way I had to set back to actually remember the tune. However, when Grier began to explore the various paths of melodic beauty within the tune it became clear that Grier had found that the essence of the tune is in the music itself and not the pace of performance. Grier shows us that he's a master player who can arrange a layered sound to a piece of music on a solo instrument.
Grier continues his free-form experimentation in his version of "Bill Cheathum." This time around Grier makes his initial melodic statement as an actual break from that very same melody. I've always viewed improvisation as a means to hear what others may hear in the same piece of music. We all hear different things in music, which leads to the huge disparity in the amount of music that is produced and performed around the world. The difference here is that David Grier is not set on hearing any one facet of a piece of music. He bends and forms the melody to interact with the harmony or related musical lines of thought. That's why Grier's "Bill Cheathum" remains unique in a world where the same tune has been a regularly performed standard.
I'VE GOT THE HOUSE TO MYSELF is a recording that is dominated by classic fiddle tunes. However, Grier provides two new works and a chestnut from Deford Bailey in the mix. The title cut is an elegant example as to how a piece of music can be actually crafted to create a vision. It's also a composition that will probable draw ovations from the audiences that get to hear it done live.
The art of solo guitar has become a crowded field of late. Guitar-slingers are poised at every turn to break out a new arsenal of high-powered licks to amaze the masses. However, few hold to the course of style and substance. And that's what makes a player truly great. There is no way to expect what comes from the mind of David Grier. This is an artist with a six-string. Each note in Grier's interpretation has a soul of its own and a place in a very specific universe. Grier arranges and adapts each universe into a tune. And, while others feel the need to break out a blitzkrieg of passing tones or triplet based solos, Grier illustrates that it can be every bit as effective from the other side of the fence.
David Grier is capable of standing lick to lick with with any guitarist in the universe. And, in fact, he has. However I'VE GOT THE HOUSE TO MYSELF further illustrates the depth of David Grier's art. I had the pleasure of sitting through a workshop with David Grier. And, while his message went over the heads of the majority in the auditorium, it stood proud with me. If you play something that sounds good to you, it ain't wrong! And searching for new horizons in the context of well-worn tunes is a worthy task indeed. I believe that Acoustic Guitar Magazine named David Grier as "Guitarist of the Decade." That's certainly a heavy burden to carry, but David Grier just goes out and proves why it was justified, each and every time he picks up a guitar.