With a decent pun for a title, Chris Newman flat picks his way through a selection of Bach’s sonatas. Newman’s guitar playing is of course exemplary in all kinds of genres but here he set the bar high so aiming for territory normally associated with John Williams or Julian Bream. The thing is Newman’s guitar uses steel not nylon strings and that makes these delicate pieces harder to convey, it took him a year of lock downs and much solo noodling to get matters straight. When you’ve his frame of mind which says ‘why not?’ with regularity, then genre hopping and fusion seems somehow natural. To add frisson, Chris doesn’t read music which made isolating the melodies harder as most are written for flutes, violins and cellos. He even had a guitar built especially for the project, that’s what you call commitment!
So to the music… as you might expect from a player of his standard, the picking is filigree light, notes fly from his guitar as he rounds on what is basically a classical repertoire more suited to solo instrumentalists with orchestral backing. Twelve tracks sweep by in unplugged splendour, Newman obviously a player who refuses to be bound by expectations is an across the board artist whose experience in roots, jazz and yes, even comedy means that whilst this was work, it was also an undoubted pleasure. If you’re going to pin me down and threaten me to make a choice, I’ll opt for the delicacy of ‘Bourree Anglaise,’ or closer ‘ Allegro,’ which is so tricksy it’d tie lesser strummers’ fingers in knots.
That Chris Newman’s in a class of his own should come as no surprise, just be thankful there’s no side to him and you’re as likely to catch him in a village hall as a concert hall. Virtuoso and down to earth.