Gary Lucas   reviews  

Neue Westfalische (Germany), September 20, 2005

Shakespeare Gets the Blues
Jozef van Wissem and Gary Lucas meet at the Bunker Ulmenwall for an extraordinary concert.

by Eckart Schoenlau

PICTURE CAPTION: Jangles and scratches at the highest level: Gary Lucas plays his slide guitar with unceasing energy.

Bielefeld. Two string instruments that acould hardly be more different: one, a ten-string Renaissance lute with its full warm sound, and the other, a National Steel guitar from the 1920's, made out of metal, with a piercing hollow sound. As if the world of William Shakespeare were to meet the American blues.

When they play together, the Dutchman Jozef van Wissem (Renaissance lute) and the American guitarist Gary Lucas leave temporal and spatial boundaries behind them. For four years they have been playing together as a duo. They presented a concert of surprises to the public at the Bunker Ulmenwall. With looping runs and broken chords, Jozef van Wissem played alone, at first, on his filigreed instrument, transcending all traditions.

When Gary Lucas then came on, with his metal guitar, the dazzling pastel tone colors of the two instruments fit together perfectly. Between the sharp sound of the slide guitar and the fine lute tones—they could risk anything. Caravan-like journeys and songs of every type. Jackson Browne's "These Days," which was also sung by Andy Warhol's muse Nico, shone forth in an unusual fresh light. Kraftwerk's "Hall of Mirrors" was just as persuasively plucked as Led Zeppelin's blues number "When the Levee Breaks."

Gary Lucas carried the second part of the concert alone, as a recital session. Themes and songs from his gigantic repertoire popped up. Perfect slide playing joined to virtuoso finger picking gave testimony to his stature as a towering guitarist. What makes him even more unique is the unceasing energy with which he can uninhibitedly jangle and scratch, and so draw out humor and expression. Chinese pop hits from the 1930's, blues standards, Jewish music—Gary Lucas interprets everything on his guitar with unbounded energy.