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Sean A. Martin
©2010 Independently released
Review by Lucky Boyd


From the liner notes, ďThis album is basically a fifty/fifty split of tunes composed on a 1912 Knutsen harp guitar and a 1915 Brothers Dyer Symphony #4 harp guitar.Ē  Well, you basically lost me right there.  Iím a six string man and adding five more strings enters into an area of complexity Iím just not sure about.  Oh, sure, Iíve enjoyed the music of Jim Kam on his Chapman stick and I was blown away by that.  I had only ever seen one other harp guitar performance in my life, (Muriel Anderson, the first woman to win the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship) so I was I little worried about what I was about to hear.  Heed my words carefully here, as I tell you that this is one of the most amazing instrumental albums Iíve ever heard.  Classically trained Sean A. Martin has spent a career learning to play anything with strings.  You have to understand the concept of a harp guitar.  Itís pretty much a standard guitar, tuned any way you like, set up to accommodate finger picking with hammers and pulls, but with five additional strings that act like a five-string bass guitar, but there are no frets.  Each full-length string is pre-tuned to the key in which you will be playing.  As the composition dictates, you play one of the five open strings as a sustained bass line to the rhythm and lead lines created by the fretted six-string guitar.  Got it?  You might wonder if you use the left or right side of your brain for this, and I believe you must use the top and the underside of the brain to make these kinds of sounds.  A lot of complex instrument composers just use the same tired licks over and over in different keys to give you the illusion that they have written a different song.  Martin, however, has a dynamic and a diversity in his compositions that keeps you listening track after track.  There are actually harmonic melody lines being played on the six-string that would be impressive by themselves.  Add the open ringing tones of the bass line created by the harp portion of the guitar and youíve got something special. There is a special feature to the disc, a four track suite of Celtic tunes that showcase Martinís finger style with bends and rhythms not heard on the other tracks.  If you dig great instrumental guitar with lots of intricate chords and time signature changes, this is your next purchase.  Martin finishes strong with ďRemember WhenĒ which puts a bow on this perfectly wrapped musical gift.  Texas music takes all forms, and whether youíre a Red Dirt fan, country fan, jazz or blues, or anything in between, youíre really going to enjoy this project.  Itís the kind of disc you put on in the background at your next dinner party.  All your guests will want to know about Sean A. Martin.  Now you can tell them; you can even Ďharp on ití a little.

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Sean A. Martin