I’ve always been intrigued by the possibilities of solo guitar. To me it seems to be the instrument with the widest range of possible voices – classical, jazz, folk, blues and country. I’ve played solo guitar finger-picking style for many years, and I can attest to the extreme technical difficulties of the art form. Somehow those intricate patterns that I hear in my head don’t quite make it down to my fingers. When I get particularly frustrated, I begin to imagine conversations between my hands:
Right Hand: "That was pitiful - try to keep up. And next time, better execution on the bar chords."
Left Hand: "Oh, look who’s talking. Weren’t you a bit out of control there? And can’t you play a bit louder so people can actually hear?"
Me: "Guys, guys, let’s not fight. Can’t you shake hands and agree to make up? Maybe it’s time to go to bed."
So I can appreciate those who really have this stuff down.
Which brings me to Toulouse Engelhardt, the so-called “Segovia of Surf.” (Actually, his birth name is Thomas). A self-taught guitarist, Engelhardt grew up listening to a lot of Dick Dale, but he’s clearly moved beyond those days. He was a member of the “Takoma Seven,” a group of fingerpickers who recorded for Takoma Records in the ‘60s through the mid 70’s. Other members included John Fahey (who originated the label) and Leo Kottke.
Toulousology, a compilation of songs recorded from 1976 Through 2010, showcases Engelhardt’s virtuosity and compositional inventiveness. He demonstrates a variety of techniques, sometimes sounding classical, sometimes jazzy, sometimes like a Piedmont guitarist on crystal meth. Most of the solos are performed on 12-string guitar – a few are on electric six-string. Most compositions are his own, and include themes from a wide variety of classical and pop sources. Engelhardt often takes his song ideas from non-musical motifs (which is the definition of a tone poem).