15 Songs, 48 Minutes


Customer Reviews

Acoustic Journal

D Hamer

Acoustic Journal is a melodic tapestry of fourteen solo (and one duet) acoustic guitar instrumentals, all of them accessible and easy to enjoy from the first playing. Moods and tempos vary but not in any way so as to present jarring juxtapositions between songs. If I was asked to compare Doug Hamer to other acoustic guitarists, I’d classify him as a blend of Clarelynn Rose and Ken Bonfield. He can kick up his proverbial heels on a song like “Java” which sways and rocks, albeit in a gentle fashion, or let subtle influences color his songs, such as on “Island Memories” (which draws from the Hawaiian slack key school) or the appropriately titled “Celtic Garden.” At other times, he takes a more impressionistic approach, playing in a sparser vein, e.g. “Fern Grotto,” which displays his control of nuance and shading, as well as demonstrating some well-executed studio engineering techniques (echo effect) which can go a long way toward giving the music some depth and extra feeling. Later in this track, the pace picks up even while the mood remains draped in mystery, as Hamer’s finger fly every which way on the fret board and across the strings, picking fingerstyle in a dazzling display of control.

The strengths of Acoustic Journal are its relative simplicity (this is, after all, just a solo acoustic guitar CD, with no keyboards or other accompaniment, with the exception of the presence of a second guitarist on the song “Next to Me,” a gentle romantic ballad, on which Hamer is joined by Dean Nissen) and it’s wider than usual variety of music, embracing an assortment of moods and tempos. That Hamer manages to vary the music as much as he does while still keeping the overall “feel” of the CD on the quiet side (perhaps achieved through attention to detail in the recording process, e.g. mic placement, mixing, and engineering) makes the recording an ideal soundtrack to Saturday afternoon chores, especially outdoors, or maybe as the musical backdrop to a distant thunderstorm.

From the self-described (in the copious liner notes) “haunting chordal structure and swaying tempo” of “Wind in the Windmill” to the slyly cheerful “Indigo Skies” to the uptempo blues of “No Strings” and the serene album closer, “Goodbye Shanghai,” Doug Hamer paints a multi-hued sonic landscape on his acoustic guitar, taking the listener through peaceful rural towns, winding through fog-shrouded valleys, and hiking to the tops of rolling hills. As I’ve always maintained, most acoustic instrumental music is especially well-suited for playing while enjoying our wonderful natural environment, whether it’s the peaceful north woods of the Midwest, the expansive vistas of the Rockies or Grand Tetons or the breathtaking ocean views from Highway 1 along the Pacific coastline. Doug Hamer’s Acoustic Journal is ideal music to listen to in any of these environs or you can enjoy it almost as much as an armchair traveler, too. Either way, I solidly recommend the album.

Bill Binkelman
Music Reviewer
New Age Reporter