Nice Feeling

Pierre Bensusan

Zebra Acoustic Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


A few months ago, I had the pleasure of listening to a two-volume set of Celtic Fingerstyle guitar music. For someone who loves acoustic music and superb guitar works, these discs were the equivalent of finding the Rosetta Stone. One of the guitarists whose work really stood out in this collection was French guitarist Pierre Bensusan, and the few cuts he appeared on really made me want to hear more of his work.

With the recent release of Nice Feeling, a compilation of Bensusan's first six albums on the Rounder label, my wish has been granted. And while there are a few curveballs thrown at the listener on this disc, it again showcases the incredible talent that Bensusan has on the six-string.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Let's get to the surprises first. I will admit that I was not excited about the prospects of hearing saxophone and vocals added to Bensusan's playing, and while both don't really add anything special to the mix, their sparing presence doesn't take away from the music, either. The two tracks featuring saxophone - "Flemish Suite With Apples" and "Lord Hook Of Cumbria" - are still great tracks to listen to, and Bensusan's guitar work still rings out strongly.

What probably makes the vocals work for Bensusan is that he uses his voice as a background instrument, and doesn't do more than to just follow the melody of the song without adding words. In a sense, doing this actually allows Bensusan to speak a universal language with his music.

What is also special about Bensusan is that you get so wrapped up in his playing that the long tracks on Nice (pronounced "neece") Feeling seem to be over just seconds after they start. Songs like "Bamboule" and "Falafel" (which is a very playful song) hold your interest and don't let go until the last note has faded out.

It should be noted that the term "Celtic fingerstyle" doesn't necessarily mean you'll be listening to Irish music played on the guitar. Instead, Bensusan weaves all of his influences (which include Irish and Celtic music) into his songs, and creates a sound that transcends any simple label one could put on it. Simply put, Bensusan's music must be heard to be believed and understood. (I'm guessing watching him perform live is an incredible experience; regrettably, I was unable to see Bensusan the last time he was in Chicago.)

Nice Feeling is a great album to pick up not only for the person interested in discovering more of Bensusan's music, but also for someone who wants to hear solid, inspired guitar work. It's one thing to strap on a Stratocaster and shred out a solo at a million miles an hour. It's another thing to use an acoustic guitar as a tool to create something out of this world - and Bensusan is a master at doing just that.

Rating: A-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Zebra Acoustic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.