Celtic Waters 2012 CD $12.
Bob offers up traditional Celtic songs, with authentic interpretations of style and melody, mostly solo, but with flute and cello on several tracks.
AcouStick* Dawn 2003 CD $12.
Bob has gone deeper than ever into his music, deeper into the sound of the small classical guitar body, deeper into his incredible technique on the mahogany Stick neck with the Rails, and is now totally submerged in the traditions of Spanish classical guitar, Flamenco guitar and the world of Brazilian harmonies and rhythms. Yet no classical guitarist I've ever heard can come close to Bob's precision, dynamic control, texturally rich arrangements, and sheer speed and flow of execution within this fertile discipline.
Blend in an equal measure of burning passion expressed through brilliant new fingering routines, and you have Bob Culbertson's newest solo CD, "AcouStick Dawn", featuring his solos on the first prototype of a planned acoustic Stick model.
Bob has found a worthy vessel into which to pour his fiery tapping energy, an elaborate vessel shaped in traditional musical forms - driving Latin body-rhythms, soulful Spanish guitar transcriptions of classical themes, and guitar type crescendos and flourishes.
I'm proud to say I used to urge him in this direction, and I'd still like to see him play the college circuit as Segovia did when he first introduced the classical guitar to this continent and thereby forged his own place in musical history.
Out of the twelve songs on this CD, seven are Bob's originals, five of which are Spanish or Latin in style and two of which bring back Bob's earlier Celtic explorations. He also plays Isaac Albeniz's "Layenda", Francisco Tarrega's "Recuerdos De La Alhambra", and J.S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue". Then there are classical styled AcouStick renditions of Steve Howe's "Mood for a Day" and Jimmy Hendrix's "Little Wing".
In Recuerdos, Bob taps out the classical tremolo right hand technique, three unison pedal notes with lead melody note in rapid fire, and makes it flow unflagging throughout the song. He captures the dynamic Flamenco multi-fingered strumming effects by holding a chord in each hand and rolling (arpeggiating) them top-to-bottom/bottom-to-top, at strumming speed of course. To add a warm feeling of guitar accompaniment to the live performance, he actually strums or slaps with his right thumb while all other fingers are occupied with bass, chords and melody.
Bob says in his liner notes that the AcouStick is "the acoustic version of the Chapman Stick" and is "the first fully acoustic musical instrument designed purely for the touch method of playing", and that this CD is its "first recording".
What I'm left remembering is the sound of Bob's fingers on acoustic strings, a sound like no other Stick or tapped guitar. The acoustical richness and resonances actually dominate over the expected Stick tapping sound, maybe to the point where some classical guitarists might actually identify with Bob's artistry and even answer to his challenge.
Best to All, Emmett
*AcouStick™ is a trademark of Bob Culbertson and Stick Enterprises.
Romantica 1, Romantica 2 2000 CD $12 (each).
The double CD album "Romantica" proves Bob to be an authentic classical soloist of great expressive range, and for the first time gives The Stick a legitimate place among solo instruments in that genre. He plays the strings clean and unprocessed, calling upon the subtle interpretative traditions of the classically trained musician.
The Spanish classical guitar and its tonal variations and embellishment techniques inspired his faithful renditions of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue", Francisco Terrega's "Recuerdos de Alhambra", and Isaac Albeniz' "Leyenda". Though Bob taps the strings with all eight fingers (and both thumbs), you can feel the Spanish guitarist's right hand techniques in these songs.
At other times he brings out the instrumental tones and technical style of a well tempered harpsichord, as in Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" and Gasper Sanz' "Canarios". In Bob's hands, the ringing strings alternately sound like guitar, harp, even English bells. The sweet highs and resonant lows create a full and satisfying listening experience.
There are a total of 24 diverse compositions on these two CDs.
The Touch 1998 CD $12.
The third in a threesome of solo Stick CDs (along with A Moment in Time and Cafe San Francisco), The Touch reveals Bob's musicianship and composition at a state of unity, harmony and near perfection in terms of the challenging goals he has set for himself. He unites both bass and melody string groups into one entity on the board, thereby enhancing the unique qualities of The Stick as a musical instrument in its own right. He also unites his awesome array of sub-techniques into one big "Stick" technique - an interdependent "fingerpicking" style combined with independent counterpoint, left and right thumbs as part of the line, and a strumming overlay at any moment (without blinking of course).
There is an honest "bluegrass" kind of rigor to this album. Bob taps out composed and improvised fingerpicking patterns in the spirit of Michael Hedges, and moves them around in novel harmonic directions, adding a classical layer to his unique and personal solo style.
Cafe San Francisco 1996 CD $12. (currently out of print)
This follow-up to Bob's A Moment in Time uses the same "live" solo recording technique as his earlier work, but the material is decidedly jazzier and bluesier. He successfully employs The Grand Stick as a complete stringed instrument, with lots of lyrical bending, slides, harmonics, walking bass and trills. His interweaving of sustained overlapping bass and melody strings creates the effect of a giant fingerstyle guitar. The twelve original pieces are relaxed yet often intricate forays, presenting a variety of styles and moods: pop, waltzes, blues, Latin. Throughout the course of any given piece Bob will play the entire instrument, even employing his legendary thumb techniques, pre-bending notes and flying through runs with dizzying speed. His tone is "acoustic" in nature and highly expressive.
A Moment in Time 1994 CD $12.
A Moment in Time was all recorded live solo on Bob's 12-string Grand Stick. Like a classical guitarist he creates all his expressive effects, nuances and dynamics from his fingers alone - very instructive and challenging for a Stick player, very inspiring for musicians in general. He subdues himself, serving his music, patiently building to its heights. His broad array of sub-techniques creates a solo orchestra of strings, brimming with sonic textures, flamenco rhythms, simultaneous strumming and counterpoint creeping out of every sector of the fretboard (and out of every finger). His styles range from Celtic to flamenco, baroque and "New Age" with wonderfully fast melodic lines and flourishes. All original compositions.
Season of Joy 1995 Christmas CD $12.
Bob sticks to his straightforward solo Stick approach. These nine traditional carols and one original are relaxed and sweetly presented, with Bob's left hand sounding at times likes a piano or guitar. Occasional bluesy riffs vary the improvisational sections of the pieces.
New World Dance 1992 CD $15.
Bob's Stick virtuosity is prominent throughout, along with vocals and African percussion by Babatunde Olatunji. Expansive songscapes by the African Rain singing group complement and temper Bob's world-class instrumental skills. The result is an inspirational work of multi-cultural dimensions.