Review of Dean Magraw’s Foxfire by Rick Gebhard · March/April 2009

From its bioluminescencent title, you might expect Dean Magraw ‘s “Foxfire” to illuminate, and you’d be right. Magraw’s emotive acoustic guitar and sitar seemingly create any mood.

“Gad Zukes” is full of energy and life. It’s catchy, playful, uplifting melody is one you’ll hear long after the disc is out of the player. The repetitive hooks in this song are the perfect soundtrack to an upbeat stroll on a sunny day.

“Myst of the Mourning” employs beautiful use of natural harmonics and delicate picking to create a haunting, contemplative song.

“Angel One” sounds like a classical piece. Nylon strings and a slower pace take the listener to a reflective, almost melancholy place. While there seems to be hope in this mellow piece, the sadness seems to permeate and color the overall feel. Sitar is a difficult instrument to meld with western music.

In “After the Rain”, Dean Magraw makes artful use of the volume-swell effect of chords on this Indian instrument. The nasal, buzzy drone of Magraw’s mesmerizing sitar sounds like his playing on the rest of “Foxfire,” but it adds an exotic locale to the map. The flurry of quickly ascending notes at the end of the track sound like a Fender Rhodes electric piano; an extremely cool ending to tight, mysterious song.

TranceMission” adds to jazzier chords and smoking blues licks. If there were any doubts about Dean’s chops, “TranceMission” clears them up in short order. The call and response style of the song is yet another showcase for the tasty, grove-based originals on “Foxfire”.

Though there are many bright spots, the highlight of the album is the closing track, “Amazing Grace,” the unofficial “Johnny B. Goode”-type benchmark of acoustic guitar. Smooth, violin-like Ebowed swells release the timeless melody; a technique often overlooked on acoustic instruments. Clearly, Magraw is not afraid to push the envelope, take us off the beaten path, and show us something new. The result is big songs. Although it does sound like he’s sitting in the room with you, strumming and picking away, the thick arrangements and expert recording make “Foxfire” surround you in Magraw’s vision.

Unlike many solo guitar works, this album does not leave you wanting the rest of the band to join in. Dean Magraw’s solid guitar work supports a strong voice and vision. “Foxfire” is a beautiful testament to the artistry of Dean Magraw, a man not afraid to color outside the lines. –© Rick Gebhard

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