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Album Review: Andy Reiss, Ranger Doug, and Bobby Durham - "The Art of the Archtop"

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Album Review: Andy Reiss, Ranger Doug, and Bobby Durham - "The Art of the Archtop"
Andy Reiss, Ranger Doug, and Bobby Durham
The Art of the Archtop
Archtop Records

If you’re a fan of classic archtop guitar, you’ll be delighted with this beautifully recorded and relentlessly swinging set of tunes celebrating the f-hole sound. Backed by Bobby Durham on upright bass (and sousaphone on one track), Andy Reiss and Ranger Doug perform timeless music on a collection of vintage D’Angelico and Stromberg 6-strings. Here’s the kicker: There are no amps involved. This is strictly an acoustic outing, so the sonic quality of these priceless carved-top instruments comes through loud and clear, colored only by the room and a few high-end mics.

These gifted musicians tracked their parts live, with Reiss handling all the lead work and Doug strumming the changes in a two-chord-per-bar style à la Freddie Green. Both guitarists play in the Time Jumpers—a Grammy-nominated, Nashville-based Western swing band— which means they’ve spent thousands of hours exploring this repertoire together.

And it shows. As Reiss snakes up and down the fretboard, juggling chromatic approach tones, sly bends, slurs, and double- stops, Doug holds steady, chonking out crisp three- and four-note voicings that define the harmony and drive the beat. The guitarists’ musical empathy is palpable and they play as if joined at the hip.

The primarily instrumental The Art of the Archtop consists of standards—including Duke Ellington’s “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me,” Benny Goodman’s “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You”—augmented by the occasional vocal from Doug, Durham, or a guest singer.

We’re so conditioned to think of the archtop jazzbox as a dark-sounding instrument— after all, that’s the way we typically hear it when it’s amplified—it’s a revelation to experience the crisp, woody snap of these carved-top guitars au naturel. What a treat.

MUST-HEAR TRACK: Listen to “Blue lou”

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