Living Room Sessions
Net Music Zone, 2009
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/13/2009
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for good guitar music. I don’t care what the genre is, if someone is able to pick up a guitar and absolutely make it sing, you have my undivided attention.
So, it was with a sense of eagerness that I popped in Living Room Sessions, a 15-track release from fingerstyle guitarist Jeff Aug. And, make no mistake, he proves his talent on the six-string often over the course of this disc. What he doesn’t prove, though, is that he has the vision to take some wonderful ideas and stretch them into complete works of art.
Of the 15 tracks on this disc, a whopping three songs clock in at over three minutes in length -- and there are three “Intermezzo” tracks. I’m all for the school of saying what you need to say, then getting out before you’ve overstayed your welcome. But in these snippets, Aug actually leaves the listener asking, “And then what?!?”
Case in point: “One Twenty” is a beautifully complex chord progression that begins to really unfold in front of the listener, when – whap! – the song ends after only 98 seconds. This particular work, like so many others on this disc, sounds like it is incomplete, and leaves the listener wondering how the rest of the piece would have unfolded.
And this is a major disadvantage for Aug. There’s no questioning his talent -- think of a combination of Doug Smith and Yngwie Malmsteen at times -- and his skill on the acoustic guitar. But having pieces like “September,” “Highlife” and “Passing Time” finish without fully reveling their musical pictures makes me wonder if Aug is still learning how to close the deal, musically.
He obviously has some skill at it, as the Spanish-influenced “Lightness” and absolutely wonderful “Musicbox Ballerina” prove. (I would, though, say the opening section of “Musicbox Ballerina,” with its Malmsteen-like riffing, does not fit with the body of the song, and sounds out of place once the listener has heard the piece in its entirety.) Likewise, “Whenever It Comes” shoes that Aug knows how to write a complete song, and allow the musical ideas to fully develop. If only there were more moments on Living Room Sessions like this; had there been, this disc would have been phenomenal.
I do, though, need to call Aug on the carpet for committing what I consider to be the most mortal sin in the era of compact discs -- the “hidden track.” Not only does he bury a musical snippet nearly 10 minutes after the completion of the final track “Sunday Morning,” he does it again with a second snippet after this one with outtakes of “Boots On Fire,” complete with a frustrated uttering of, “Ah, f#&k” when he blows a take. I’m no prude, but that’s not what I expect to hear on a disc of fingerstyle guitar music, and I’m glad I chose to listen to it for review purposes in my car, not on the family stereo. Sorry, Jeff, but these two snippets need to die -- they add absolutely nothing to the disc.
It sounds like I’m being overly harsh on Living Room Sessions, and in a way, I guess I am. But that’s only because I hear the potential that Aug has as a songwriter -- there’s no questioning his skill as a guitarist -- and my belief that, had he developed many of these songs a little more, they would have been some of the best guitar-based instrumental music out there today.
I would definitely not hesitate to give Aug a second try whenever he chooses to release his next album. But Living Room Sessions is evidence that there is still more learning to be had, though there is plenty of promise evident on this disc.