Harvey Reid Concert: co-sponsored by Golden Link Folk Singing Society, April 2, 2011


Harvey Reid with Bourgeois

About one hundred music lovers assembled at the Rochester Christian Reform Church in Penfield on Saturday, April second, to enjoy one of America’s special musical treasures, Harvey Reid. Harvey has been pursuing the professional circuit for more than thirty-five years with his special brand of acoustic magic, playing nearly any instrument with strings. Last Saturday he focused on his primary instruments, guitar and autoharp. Any attempt to label his musical style and range will fall short. In his own words, he calls what he plays “Un-Pop.” It is folk, Celtic, bluegrass, old-time, blues, contemporary Americana, roots music masterfully played by a fingerstyle champion. Harvey’s picking style is quite identifiable with an aggressive approach to each passage but crisp, clear intonation throughout and complex use of suspended and augmented combinations through use of partial capos and the occasional specially tuned string. He spikes his performances with wry humor and stories of the road and family to keep us amused while he tweaks and re-tweaks the tuning to get it just right. He was wearing acrylic nails but occasionally donned a thumb pick and plastic finger picks. He said he is using Elixir Nanoweb Medium gauge (.013) strings.


Harvey & CA

The Gear: Harvey brought with him his “slightly custom” cocabola-wood Dana Bourgeois JOMC cutaway acoustic, a unique Chrysalis guitar for slide, which is a carbon fiber frame with a central “grille” and an inflatable body which he does not inflate. This instrument is the ultimate travel guitar as the nut separates from the neck which separates from the body which divides in half, and it all fits in an attaché case. Inflated, it sounds quite “acoustic” but also has electronics built into a module on the strap. Harvey used this primarily for slide guitar. He also brought his CA (Composite Acoustics) guitar which is a carbon fiber or fiberglass thin hollow body acoustic. I believe this was in a special tuning. Finally, Harvey brought his trademark early 1970’s 21-chord Appalachian Oscar Schmidt autoharp, with a custom paint job by Fil Kennedy. He has equipped this instrument with a stock Oscar Schmidt magnet pickup, a Fishman SBT piezo pickup and a built in Crown GLM-100 hypercardioid mini mike. I believe he does not tie in the mike when performing live though.


Harvey playing Chrysalis

Playlist: Harvey started off with an instrumental medley using an E (sus) capo starting with Steven Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More.” He then moved into “Red in the Sky, Blood on the Water” which actually sounds a little J.S. Bach-ish. Next up was a vocal from his Blues & Branches album called “From Where I stand.” Harvey’s singing style is as recognizable as his playing with the same aggressive lead into each phrase, but comes through clear and understandable. Several autoharp tunes were presented next, “Waltz of the Waves,” then “Crown the Queen.” Two more harp tunes, a humorous “The Fishing Pond Blues” and then “Show Me the Road That Leads To My Home.”

Slide guitar was up next on the Chrysalis. Harvey hypothesized that the origination of the slide guitar had to be someplace like Mississippi or Hawaii where the high humidity quickly made most guitars unplayable by any other method due to severe warping. A lowdown blues piece “Walk Through a Graveyard” was first, then “Fluf’s Vacation” followed by a unique arrangement of “St. James Infirmary.” He then made a change to the CA guitar for a tune using only an E chord and some percussive action, “Ode to the E Chord.”


Harvey and Autoharp

Back on the acoustic after intermission, Harvey opened the second set with his epic “Scotland Suite.” The melody is played mostly on the high E string with a series of hammers, -on and -off with both hands. Next a rather sad cowboy song – “Too Old to Ride” and then on to the Chrysalis for a “Harveyized” slide version of “The St. James Infirmary.” Switch to the autoharp for “Not Grieve the Dying Light” which then transitioned into “Jack Tar the Sailor.” He finished up the autoharp (ironically) with a song called “It’s a Banjo Playing” which even more ironically he recorded on the Dreamer or Believer album playing guitar.

On the slide guitar again we were rewarded with a gospel medley beginning with a sensitive presentation of “Amazing Grace” which morphed into “Down By the River Side” and then swung into “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” Switching back to acoustic he played an old folk song “Texas Rangers” from the 1906 Alan Lomax book. Last tune was played on the CA guitar, the instrumental Part two of the Norway Suite “Across the Fjord” with a prominent drone note throughout. He injected a short vocal about Bonnie George Campbell and then slid into the peppy instrumental third part of the Norway suite “Farewell to Vikedal.”

After mild arm twisting, the audience brought Harvey back for an encore of “Jack o’ Diamonds Blues” on the slide guitar, picking essentially within a single chord throughout the song. This, like the “Ode to the E Chord” was an example of his Song Train album and book set of basically two-chord songs that even in their simplicity can be played to sound quite complex. A terrific evening of music it was, and a nice opportunity to partner with our fellow Golden Link Folks.

—Jeremy Carter
Photos: R. Taglieri

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