Seattle guitarist, producer, songwriter and composer Eric Tingstad demonstrates why he's been honored several times for his work, including a Grammy in 2003 for Best New Age Album. His 2007 album, "Southwest," received a Grammy nomination, and he followed up that album in 2012 with "Badlands"; on each of these albums, he re-created the sounds and styles of the regions for which the albums are named; now, he brings his deep talent for capturing and evoking the feel of a place and the stories that haunt it in "Mississippi."
Tingstad builds little-by-little a river of sound from a singular driving melody line in the opening track, "Long Boats," not only creating the feeling of the movement of the Mississippi River beneath the boats' bottoms, but also, by riffing on minor chords throughout the song, developing the adventure, danger and tension that come with operating a long boat.
"Shakin' in the Cradle" features a jaunty blues line that tells a story of promise and deliverance. "Mississippi" opens with a riff reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" and could have been right at home on the earlier Fleetwood Mac's "Mystery to Me" album.
On "Tennessee Rain," Tingstad's opening shuffling guitar re-creates the sounds of raindrops, building into a multi-layered shower of notes that cascade down into verses that re-create a mournful, yet tender, happiness. The tune reveals the feelings that pour out when a lover is leaving or when a love is lost for good, while at the same time recalling the sweet beauty of that love. Tingstad opens the traditional "Danny Boy" with a steel riff worthy of country steel wizard John Hughey and then delivers a very un-Celtic-like version of the tune (a welcome relief), blending country and Hawaiian tones on the steel guitar. In many ways, it's the highlight of album, since it features Tingstad's instrumental prowess and his compositional genius.
The beauty of Tingstad's fretwork moves us gently, like the rhythms of the Mississippi River, opening new vistas with each new boundary he crosses in his playing, never wasting notes and weaving waves of melody carry us along through regions of loss, regret, love and hope.