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Jake Armerding

Jake Armerding – 2003 (Compass)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Jake Armerding

Massachusetts' own Jake Armerding's second album goes a long way towards blurring the lines between folk, rock and bluegrass. A songwriter with a gift for literate imagery, the 25-year-old guitar, mandolin and fiddle player has crafted a moody, largely melancholy work.

Amerding possess a high, soft voice, which sounds like a folkier version of Vince Gill's. This technique is put to good use on the catchy road and romance shuffle "Little Boy Blue (North of North Dakota)," claustrophobia-inspired breakdown of "Too Many People" and the grateful love paean "You Took Me In." Employing sharp acoustic bluegrass leads against a subtle rock and pop rhythm section, Armerding proves himself a solid roots instrumentalist blessed with improvisational flair. His fiddle and banjo duet with Greg Liszt on the traditional "The Girl I Left Behind," is the 12-song set's haunting highlight.

However, too often the singer-songwriter just wallows in cerebral despair. Whether pining for home in "Ithaca," fearing the loss of love in "Destiny's Flight" or essaying emotional denial in "Never Mind," Armerding seldom lets his audience up for emotional air. Ultimately, this disc is best suited to listeners wishing to induce a lingering sense of existential angst.