Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dan Bankhurst. At First Sight.

Dan Bankhurst.  At First Sight.
Self-produced, 2013.  Dan Bankhurst:

I have to say that I am a big fan of folk, blues, jazz, and country guitar instrumentalists.  John Fahey, Jack Rose, Merle Travis, Taj Mahal, and Doc Watson are all favorites.  For me it started with hearing Roy Clark and Mason Williams back in the 60s on TV.  Dan Bankhurst has just entered those ranks too, despite his lack of track record, playing in the style of Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, with a jazzy feel and a strong thumb.  Other people think so too, since he won the 2013 International Home of Legends Thumbpicking Competition in Powderly, Kentucky, held at the Merle Travis Center.  Nice job, Dan.  The only thing I can’t believe is that this is his first CD.

While Bankhurst includes Joe Pass, George Benson, and Django Reinhardt as influences, I don’t really hear much of them.  What I do hear is Chet Atkins ringing through loud and clear.  The laid back feel, the phrasing, and the atmosphere of this album all speak to that style.  Nowhere is this more evident than in “Looney Tune.”, an enjoyable romp.  However, unlike Atkins, Bankhurst never gets schmaltzy.  The album includes a mix of originals and other people’s tunes.  Personally, I tend to prefer the originals, since I always mentally compare the covers.  In this case, most work very well.   He comes across with a great deal of personality on “Moondance,” keeping as faithful to the original, but adding his own spin once he gets beyond the first two verses.  Unfortunately, sometimes people choose songs I just don’t care for.  This is true of “Just the Way You Are,” a Billy Joel tune that I never liked.  

Bankhurst’s songs are delightful, full of enjoyable twists and turns.  He ranges from the soft and gentle “Grand Man” and “Hawaiian Sunset” to the rolling opener, “Phishin’,”  to the appropriately funky “Dan’s Funk,” to the roller coaster “Looney Tune” with no trouble at all.  The closer, “Ride with Me,” features Bankhurst singing, and he does a good job.  My personal favorites are “Phishin’” and “Ghost Town,” which combines a fascinating mix of flavors that I really enjoyed.

Bankhurst is clearly arriving.  If you love solo acoustic guitar, please find this album.  It’s classy and sophisticated and downhome and sweet all at the same time.  He does everything with great style, and I now dearly want to hear more.  He divides his time between here and Nashville, and it looks like he won’t be back until May or so.  Check him out when he shows up, or on iTunes: 

Personnel:  Dan Bankhurst (guitar, vocals).
Tracks:  Phishin’, Mitchell Lane, Grand Man, Moondance, Looney Tune, Hatikvah (The Hope), At First Sight, Tears of Joy, Isn’t She Lovely, Hawaiian Sunset, Ghost Town, Just the Way You Are, Dan’s Funk, Ride with Me.

Jeff Wanser

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