Sandy Shalk
Sandy Shalk

                        Sing Out Review

Spring 2007 – Volume 51 #1
"Giving Voice"
Piney Ridge 1001

You might guess that good guitar music, beautifully played, would
be hard to come by but, you’d be surprised. Too many good guitar
players decide that a vocal or two (or three or four) will liven up an
album, which is just fine if they sing as well as they play. A rare
breed of guitarist, however, is smart enough to remember Frank
Zappa’s words of wisdom: “Shut up and play your guitar.” This is
exactly what Tim Alexander and Sandy Shalk do on Giving Voice,
creating one of those rare albums of good guitar music, beautifully

A glance at both names on the cover might convince you that Giving
Voice is a duo album, but it isn’t. Instead, Alexander and Shalk
(simply referred to as Tim and Sandy in the liner notes), take turns
on a mellow set of solo acoustic guitar. On Gilles Chabenat’s
“Crested Hens,” Shalk’s acoustic guitar captures the delicate nature
of the melody, evoking subtle moods and quiet spaces. On “Deep
River Blues” Alexander turns in an easy-flowing, happy blues that
would’ve made Merle Travis proud. Both players reveal an ability to
marry classical proficiency to folk music, creating a down-to-earth
hybrid. The closer, Shalk’s take on “Moon River” might even
convince you that Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer wrote Celtic
jigs for a living. --RL

                     Minor7th Review

"Giving Voice" 2006 -- This is the first in what will most likely be a
series of recordings which fingerstyle player El McMeen is now
beginning to produce for his Piney Ridge Music label. The aim is
apparently to showcase talented players he's had connections with,
and if this first effort is any indication, he's on the right track. Tim
Alexander and Sandy Shalk have put together a lovely disc of mostly
gentle, traditional sounding tunes. While it's a duo recording, the pair
take their turns on the songs, highlighting their individual talents.
Scottish and Irish melodies fill most of the CD, whether jigs like
"The Bonnie Jig" (Alexander), ballads like "Jock O'Hazeldean”
(Alexander), or the obligatory Turlough O'Carolan song like "Planxty
John Irwin" (Shalk). These guys have obviously been playing and
listening to these tunes for some time, most clearly evidenced on
"Crested Hens" played by Shalk, where he gives the song just the
right pace, allowing the music to breath. We even get "Deep River
Blues" by Alexander, and "Moon River" by Shalk for a turn on
traditional American songs. The imprint of McMeen is all over
"Giving Voice," from the sensitivity of arrangements and clean
playing, to the clear fidelity of the recording itself. McMeen's
mentoring of these players has given us more terrific guitar music by
which to light our days. We're the fortunate ones for hearing their
voice. © Kirk Albrecht
“Learn to be open. Be
able to take things in,
coming from
wherever they came.
If you are not open to
it, you are not going
to be inspired.”
Pierre Bensusan
                  Minor7th Review of Newer Every Day

Sandy Shalk is something of a renaissance man who's played
jazz and pop professionally, taught high school, and written
books. More recently, after attending the Swannanoa guitar
camp and studying with El McMeen, he began arranging for
solo steel-string guitar, which he plays on "Newer Every
Day." Shalk's relaxed approach recalls McMeen, although
jazzier. He plays standards like "Blue Monk", "Round
Midnight", "Take Five", "Georgia on My Mind", and "God
Bless the Child" in a style that's gentle and accessible, but also
adventurous. His selection of Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan
Fantasy" and Bix Beiderbecke's "Davenport Blues" reveals the
depth of his interest in jazz, which, according to his website,
extends back to his teens. Pieces from other genres, such as
the hymn "Be Thou My Vision" and Carolan's "Blind Mary",
further display Shalk's emphasis on lyricism over flashy
playing. In other words, Sandy Shalk is a romantic. There's
no better example of this than "My One and Only Love,"
which features a sensitively articulated melody and moving
voices in the midrange and bass registers. He takes the same
approach with the traditional Scottish tune, "Arran Boat
Song." Sandy Shalk is a fully realized musician who
expresses rather than merely plays. His playing both sooths
and swings, displaying both individual artistry and sensitivity
to his listeners. I intend to listen to this lovely recording
frequently and stay on the watch for more music from Sandy
Shalk.  ©Copyright Patrick Ragains