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James Wallace: Ghosts Dance at the Fiesta

Rather than settling into a comfortable “signature” sound, James Wallace openly defies the typical guitarist’s conventional wisdom, showcasing creativity as well as technique on Ghosts Dance at the Fiesta. The Montana-based guitarist takes a wide-open, Big Sky approach to this indie gem, using his instruments for thematic illustration. On “Cloudburst,” for example, rumbling bass and a dark thematic lead line evoke thunder, while a startlingly stark introductory section marks “Wind Over Angel Wing,” with guitar taking on a harp-toned feel. Wallace’s hard-fusion roots show throughout, but in sometimes unexpected ways as on the heady, tough-and-tender electric lead blowing through the mellow “Blues in Your Eyes” or the shredding, wailing intrigue propelling “Waiting in Casablanca.” Backed by a rock-solid, equally adventurous trio, Wallace also uses that stream-of-consciousness power play to ignite mellower pieces, like the acoustic tapestry “Starry Night” and dreamy, layered flamenco-laced “Salvador Dali Runs With the Bulls.” Also at the controls as producer and arranger, Wallace turns in a playful, varied effort with welcome surprises at every turn.

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