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Jeff Richman/Wayne Johnson: Apache

From the outset of Apache (Miramar 09006-23142-2; 56:22) it’s clear that guitarists Jeff Richman and Wayne Johnson boast the signs of a musical synergy born of years of dueting: impeccable timing and dynamics, explorative textures, and seamless, riveting melodies. The two trade off steel and nylon guitars, keeping pieces like the stark blue folk charmer “Snake Eyes” popping with percussive pulse, while sweeping with a gentle acoustic touch. Apache finds Richman and Johnson exploring clever covers, as well as well-crafted, hooky originals. Into the former category goes the album’s title track, a showcase cover of the classic Shadows tune made famous by Jorgan Ingman in the ’60s. This duo transforms the familiar melody into a dark and joyful textural piece, filled with wicked nylon strums and steely picked solos spinning off into unexpected directions. Other key covers take on some of the best recent songwriting, in a hopping, brisk reinvention of Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home” and a stark, gentle harmony-laden take on Bonnie Raitt’s heartbreaking “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” The duo’s originals range from Johnson’s cleverly revolving, swampy “Tumbling” to Richman’s lush, traveling soundscape “Let This Be the One.” Perhaps best illustrating the spirit of Apache is Johnson’s “Keeping the Dream Alive,” with a dreamy, cowboy-romantic melody that Bruce Hornsby might be singing. This technically wondrous effort holds the kind of lovely melodies and details that even pop fans will enjoy.

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