After disappearing for nearly a decade, the Brazilian force-of-nature that is Badi Assad is back with a magical blend of supple grooves, virtuosic nylon-string fingerpicking, and sensual vocals.

Album

Badi Assad
Between Love and Luck
Quatro Ventos

When Badi Assad released Solo in 1994, fans of lyrical nylon-string guitar and Brazilian music took notice. Making her debut was a fingerstyle virtuoso playing rhythmically adventurous pieces with the skill of a classical master. But there was more: She had a magnificent voice. Not only did Assad sing captivating melodies in lilting Portuguese, but she added mouth percussion and daring vocalizations to the mix. Her music was a blend of sassy scat singing, driving rhythms, and stunning fretboard technique. And armed with only a classical guitar and some hand percussion, she’d pull it off in concert—an unforgettable sight.

Though Assad began as a soloist, soon her muse drew her into collaborations with Larry Coryell, Sarah McLachlan, Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo Ma, and others. Then in 2006—10 albums into her career—she stopped recording. As Assad explains it, her hiatus was a result of “the birth of my beloved daughter, Sofia. That’s when I decided ... to devote myself fully to the amazing adventure that is motherhood.”

But now Assad is back, ready once again to challenge listeners with new songs and soundscapes. Like her 2005 and 2006 albums Verde and Wonderland, Between Love and Luck primarily consists of ensemble tracks. Pulsing with lively Brazilian rhythms, the gorgeous arrangements feature cello, violin, horns, and keys, and Assad’s voice, which has matured into a warm, mellow instrument, and has all the pitch-perfect, nimble accuracy of her early work. She sings in Portuguese and English—sometimes both in the same song—and deftly weaves her nylon- and steel-string acoustic parts through the tracks.

Assad plays two brief solo pieces, “Vinheta Noite” and “Vinheta Coração,” on nylon-string, and these offer tantalizing echoes of her first two albums. Several other tunes, such as “Mar Egeu,” are built around her expressive 6-string, but overall Between Love and Luck is about using the guitar for composing (she wrote 12 of the 14 songs) and accompanying her vocals. Sensual and satisfying, this music will take you to exotic, unexpected places.

Must-hear track: “Mar Egeu”

A bone nut being back-filed for proper string placement and correct action height.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to change your acoustic guitar’s tone and playability.

In my early days, all the guitars I played (which all happened to be pre-1950s) used bone nuts and saddles. I took this for granted, and so did my musician friends. With the exception of the ebony nuts on some turn-of-the-century parlors and the occasional use of ivory, the use of bone was a simple fact of our guitar playing lives, and alternative materials were simply uncommon to us.

Read More Show less

While Monolord has no shortage of the dark and heavy, guitarist and vocalist Thomas V Jäger comes at it from a perspective more common to pop songsmiths.

Photo by Chad Kelco

Melodies, hooks, clean tones, and no guitar solos. Are we sure this Elliott Smith fan fronts a doom-metal band? (We’re sure!)

Legend has it the name Monolord refers to a friend of the band with the same moniker who lost hearing in his left ear, and later said it didn’t matter if the band recorded anything in stereo, because he could not hear it anyway. It’s a funny, though slightly tragic, bit of backstory, but that handle is befitting in yet another, perhaps even more profound, way. Doom and stoner metal are arguably the torch-bearing subgenres for hard rock guitar players, and if any band seems to hold the keys to the castle at this moment, it’s Monolord.

Read More Show less
x