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Album Review

American lutenist Ronn McFarlane has had a successful career as a traditional performer and educator offering concerts and recordings of Renaissance and Baroque repertory. With the justification that lutenists of the past have been both performers and composers, he has begun to write and record crossover music with a small band called Ayreheart, consisting of flute or harp, bass, and percussion, augmented at times by strings and mostly wordless vocals. Despite the large collection of instruments, it's a crisp sound not weighed down by sentiment, with McFarlane's lute front and center, supported by subtle acoustic percussion and other sounds that accent the material according to its rhythmic qualities. The album One Morning is a successor to McFarlane's Grammy-nominated 2009 album Indigo Road, and it's in the same vein but perhaps a bit more uptempo; few of the tracks have the new age ambiance the rather cheesy sunset-and-lute cover might suggest. Likewise, although there is certainly some Celtic influence in the music, McFarlane avoids the clichés of the genre. The music here, in fact, is pleasingly impossible to categorize. There are enough hints of McFarlane's Renaissance background to satisfy anyone who has come to the music through a general liking for what might be called pop-Renaissance culture, but there are also moves derived from later eras of classical guitar, folk styles, and even bluegrass, with the rhythmic orientation being basically toward jazz. Fans of pure Renaissance music are unlikely to be satisfied by this, and it's likewise not well suited to those whose ends are meditiative, but the album is recommended to pretty much everyone else who likes the sound of a lute; McFarlane's accomplishment in reimagining its capablilities is considerable. A plus is that the Dorian label can record the lute very well indeed.~James Manheim, Rovi

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One Morning, Ronn McFarlane
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