Grammy-winning guitarist and composer Laurence Juber has released over 20 albums of acoustic guitar music over the years, but on his newest recording, Touchstones – The Evolution of Fingerstyle Guitar, released on September 28, the internationally acclaimed virtuoso takes listeners on a captivating and deeply personal guided tour of the music that helped shape his distinctive style on the instrument.
“This album differs from my other recordings in that it’s based on a historical perspective of what became known in the 20th Century as fingerstyle guitar,” Juber explains. “While I was doing some events with the C.F. Martin Company, as well as working with various school music programs, I found myself delving into the history of the guitar, from the Renaissance period onward. The record started out as a research project that evolved into a transcription music book, and then it took on its own life. Finally, I said to myself, ‘Hey, this might make a cool album!’”
For acoustic fingerstyle guitar fans, the 20 tracks on Touchstones allows them to “get under the hood” and trace the lineage of the music they love. It includes the first published Renaissance lute, vihuela and guitar pieces, then proceeds with Baroque, Classical and Romantic musical eras, before transitioning into the American parlor guitar repertoire, with the influential “Spanish Fandango.”
“It’s definitely ‘guitar-ology,’ for lack of a better term,” says Juber. “You’re hearing one person on a steel-string guitar playing music that, in its own era, represented the sounds of the times.”
But he is quick to point out that the appeal of the album isn’t limited to guitar players. “To somebody who knows nothing about this stuff, you can just put it on and get into it. It’s really a cool-sounding album to listen to!”
Juber’s interest in acoustic fingerstyle guitar started when he was a teenager in North London. Originally inspired to play the guitar after hearing the Beatles’ “She Loves You,” he first heard acoustic fingerstyle playing on Paul Simon’s recording of the Davy Graham composition “Anji,” which appeared on the Sounds of Silence album. “I then heard Bert Jansch’s version, and I taught myself to play it,” Juber recalls. “It was kind of a guitarist’s rite of passage – if you could play this descending bassline and the melody at the same time, you had really accomplished something. That kind of set me on my path.”
Some of the pieces on Touchstones are favorites that Juber “woodshedded” over the years. Others are significant for being the first of their kind, like the opening track “La Bernardina,” which is from the first book of lute music that was ever published in 1507. Similarly, there’s “Romanesca,” which represents the first piece of four-course guitar music ever published.
Juber notes that some tracks might sound familiar to modern ears in that they’re based on archetypal chord progressions. “’Guardame Las Vacas’ uses a chord progression that is the same as ‘Greensleeves,’” he observes. “This was basically the 12-bar blues of the 16th Century.”
And for Beatles fans, there’s “Recercata,” which Juber (who, coincidentally, was a member of Wings from 1978 to 1981) says “is pretty much the chord sequence that Lennon and McCartney used for ‘I Saw Her Standing There,’ whether they knew it or not.”
There’s even a Beatles connection to Bach’s “E Minor Bouree,” which Paul McCartney and George Harrison learned after they heard one of their guitar heroes, Chet Atkins, play it. “When Paul plays ‘Blackbird,’ live, he always throws in a bit of the Bach,” Juber says.
“Touchstones was such a pleasure to record,” Juber says. “I wanted to create a historical perspective on what I do as a musician who plays fingerstyle guitar. We tend to look at classical guitar as being this Spanish paradigm established in concert halls by Segovia in the early part of the 20th Century. But when I went back and found these other great fingerstyle players from other eras, I developed a feeling of kinship for these musicians, as I discovered that they did what I do – they made arrangements of popular material, wrote their own music, toured and did some teaching. They just didn’t have a recording industry back then, so their legacy is on the printed page. My role was to bring it to life from a modern fingerstyle player’s perspective.”
Juber is featured on the October 2018 cover of Acoustic Guitar magazine. Touchstones is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and other streaming services. It can also be purchased from Juber’s own Merch Shop.
For more information, visit: http://www.laurencejuber.com/