‘Polychrome’ – Gottfried David Gfrerer, Lili Records
Austrian slide maestro, Gottfied David Gfrerer, comes from a musical family and grew up playing the piano and singing in the choir. Although he studyied mechanical engineering and then medicine, the pull of music was strong, and after paying his dues as a street musician, small club artist and studio guitarist, Gfrerer has become a respected fingerstyle and slide guitarist, lecturing in music schools, producing and performing on many albums and releasing now four solo albums.
Gfrerer has also become something of a global expert in resonator guitars, analyzing original instruments from the 1930s, and restoring them. He also has become a skilled luthier, making copies of classic resonators from the past. These are the instruments he tends to perform most with.
So, it’s no surprise that his latest album, Polychrome, is dedicated to the wooden National Triolian, a guitar that was manufactured by the company between 1928 and 1929. It has twelve songs, all performed on a wooden Triolian resonator, two of which are superb instrumentals. Gfrerer says, “This album is meant to be a musical homage to the wood Triolian and its magical, inspiring and haunting quality of sound which helped me to shape my music and always makes me smile.”
Polychrome delightfully and cleverly fuses blues, Celtic, Alpine, jazz and Hawaiian influences. Gfrerer’s laid back but well phrased singing style suits the songs admirably and the end result is a fabulous album which will please any fans of both guitar music and blues. Gfrerer’s finger picking throughout is hugely impressive and his slide guitar work quite wondrous.
The influence of some of the acoustic blues masters is evident on a number of the songs, including Don’t Die Until You’re Dead. The latter is one I enjoyed particularly, with its laid-back feel and its admonition to slow down and “take a breather.” I like a bit of whistling too, something you don’t hear too much these days, so I appreciated the snatches of Gfrerer’s whistling here and there, which added to the relaxed feeling.
There are early jazz elements creeping in as well., as in Somebody Else, which not only is musically very cool, but shows off Gfrerer’s intelligent lyrical skill. You hear him rhyme “down in the bar” with “Gina Lollobrigida” and articulate “another sucking mudhole,” and your appreciation for the song writing art soars.
I was charmed by the instrumentals Anemone Bouquet with its Hawaiian strains and Loimgrobm with its ethereal spirit. Both showcase Gottfried’s exquisite acoustic slide technique.
#741 gets us into classic singer-songwriter territory and is a vehicle for an appeal for peace. It conjures up images of innocent people living in war zones where there is the constant danger of “roaring planes” and missiles raining down. The song concludes with the chilling, “He is waiting for the impact covering his ears.”
In the more familiar territory of love and lost love, The Willow and Abbeville are two lovely songs, lyrically deft, with some shimmering finger picking.
Throughout this hugely enjoyable album, Gfrerer makes a strong case for his beloved Triolian resonators, coaxing a great variety of tones and emotion from them. You’re witnessing a master at work.
Perhaps it’s no accident that Gfrerer has been drawn to this traditional music and these traditional guitars, descended as he is from the ancient Lodron family of Trentino in Italy. His music may have traditional roots, but his songs bear his own, very modern, interpretations.
One final observation – the packaging on the CD is superb, beautifully designed and produced and is complete with a lyrics booklet.
If you like, roots, Americana, blues or acoustic guitar music, waste no time – get yourself a copy of this album.
Check out some of the songs here.