Blake Aaron Stirs Guitar Lover's Soul with "Soul Stories"

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Blake Aaron Soul Stories Critical Blast

SOUL STORIES, releasing May 5th from Innervision Records, is guitarist Blake Aaron’s fifth album and his first that is entirely self-produced, with 8 of the 10 songs on the CD being original compositions.

From the very first track, “Groove-O-Matic,” it was easy to hear that Blake is no run-of-the-mill guitarist, but rather a highly accomplished virtuoso of the instrument. He plays with a controlled fluency that shines through whether the song is slow, fast, acoustic or electric.

Listening to this album, for the most part, was a treat for this fan of guitar-based music. If I were to describe it as a fine bottle of wine, I’d say it has notes (pun intended) of smooth jazz, cool jazz, traditional jazz, with a hint of blues with a Latin flare finish. That’s a complex flavor mix, but they’re all here on this album and it succeeds because of the excellent arrangements of the compositions. They keep each song, and each segment of song, fresh and inviting.

While some of the songs were fairly long for instrumentals, stretching 6 to 7 minutes on a couple tracks, they were never tiresome or tedious, which can happen on instrumentals where composition is not crafted seriously.

If these were just forays in self indulgence to simply showcase how fast and dexterous Blake’s guitar playing is, it would have gotten old quickly. But on SOUL STORIES, each song is beautifully arranged so that the songs themselves frame his guitar playing.

Blake is obviously a guitarist that can make his instrument “cry and sing,” and I find his talents very reminiscent of Al Dimeola (especially the album ELEGANT GYPSY) and Larry Carlton in the melodic ways he walks the fret board. I make these comparisons with the highest regard.

My favorite song on the album is track #6, “Story of the Blues.” Blake plays with such power under control that I get lost in the trip his playing takes me on.

The mix of songs on the album also allows us to hear that he is as equally accomplished on an acoustic guitar as he is on an electric one. Normally I don’t like that kind of mix; I either like all acoustic or all electric, but on this album they work well together.

While it is easy to tell I am a fan of this album, it is not without a slight drawback for me.

When an instrumentalist puts out an album, I kind of expect it to be all instrumentals. On this album there are two songs that have vocals, and while the singing is fine, it breaks the “mood” for me. When you have fine instrumentals on an album such as this, why put songs with vocals in it? To me it's taking the main reason I’m listening to the album and making it “second fiddle.” While there was nothing wrong with the vocalist's singing, the songs were just unassuming and uneventful, daresay even forgettable.

This is just a minor quirk really and to not recommend this album because of those two songs would be a miscarriage of justice and downright foolishness on my part, because this album is a great listen and Blake Aaron is a guitar player's guitarist.

If you’re an aficionado of the guitar as I am then you owe it to yourself to give it a serious listen. It is that good. If I were to sum up in one word what this album is, I’d have to say it is “groovy.”

The album (okay, CD) is recorded and mixed very well, and the acoustic treatment is excellent. When I play it on my system, the musicians are clearly laid out in front of me very realistically. If it were only available on vinyl, I would imagine it would be even better (sigh).

Songs on this CD:

  1. Groove-O-Matic
  2. Wes Side Story
  3. Sol Amor
  4. Europa
  5. You’re The One For Me
  6. Story Of The Blues
  7. Sara Smile
  8. Story Of My Life
  9. You’re My Miracle
  10. Encantadora
4.5 / 5.0