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Journey to the New World

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Album Review

When the word "crossover" is used to refer to a classical artist like guitarist Sharon Isbin, it usually indicates an intention by the artist to appeal to a broader audience than the usual one for classical music. Isbin's album Journey to the New World can be described as a crossover effort in this regard, but she seems to have had another sort of crossover in mind in terms of the collection's theme. Musically, the selections depict a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from Great Britain to North America. Isbin begins with traditional British music and British folk, performing the works of lute player John Dowland and others upfront. She then makes a transition to American folk music by playing tunes that came across the ocean in centuries past. In this effort, she enlists folksinger Joan Baez, who is heard before and after the seven-part "Joan Baez Suite," first singing a couple of verses of "Wayfaring Stranger," and then, after Isbin has presented her versions of songs like "The House of the Rising Sun" and "The Lily of the West," returning for "Go ‘Way from My Window." The third part of the album finds Isbin moving on to the next step in the journey of traditional folk music, i.e., to becoming American country music. The 13-part "Strings & Threads Suite" is a full-scale duet collaboration with country fiddler Mark O'Connor on a variety of brief jigs, reels, and waltzes. The two performers, though coming from different traditions, work together well, effecting a conclusion to the journey to the new world that the album makes musically.


Born: August 07, 1956

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Described by Boston Globe's Michael Manning as a musician who plays "beyond virtuosity," guitarist Sharon Isbin has been a consistent challenge for critics, who struggle to find the right superlative that would do justice to her exquisite playing. "In her hands," wrote Anne Midgette in The New York Times, the guitar takes on the precision of a diamond, each note a clear, shining facet that catches, prism-like, a glimpse of the spectrum." In essence, a performance by Isbin is like a painting by Vermeer:...
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