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Bernard Benoit - Guitare Celtique CD (album) cover


Bernard Benoit


Prog Folk

3.00 | 2 ratings

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3 stars The word "boom" does not adequately describe the early 1970s folk scene in Brittany, France. Like so many Celtic and minority cultures oppressed and degraded within the power structure of the great empires, they finally had their day. ALAN STIVELL's aptly named "Renaissance de la Harpe Celtique" revived interest in the instrument almost by itself, and BERNARD BENOIT's debut reveals the significance of acoustic guitar in the movement.

As with Stivell, Benoit does not content himself with simply regurgitating tried and true standbys. Instead, this instrumental album is part sheer picking prowess and improvisation, and part subdued traditionally based melodies. This is almost as far from the textbook progressive sound of the era as can be, but equally as far from the bouncy early works of FAIRPORT and STEELEYE. The attitude is as progressive as can be, though, and could have provided a template for a new form of prog and salvaged new age music for some level of scholarly consideration had it taken off. But rarely is any outcome just in the folk world, be it for subject or artist!

The short list of accompanying instruments does not include percussion, and a lack of available credits confounds my ability to distinguish guitar from what might be harp at times. This is particularly so in "Avel Dro"'s opening bars, before the mainline tune asserts itself on guitar then whistle. My other favourites include "Plin ar Menez", with more plucking and flutes around a spry traditional piece, and especially the genre busting fusion of "An Dro Pour Trois Guitares", which is part sunny South America and part blustery Brittany. The three guitars for which it is named, and the light symphonics (possibly mellotron) all blend mystically.

While Benoit's technique can easily be appreciated, I cannot say it is always particularly enjoyable or memorable, and "Glao War An Doen" and "Ressac" do not capture the heart. Still, as an opening salve to a 40+ year career as of this writing, "Guitare Celtique" motivates me to hear more from this undeservedly obscure fellow.

kenethlevine | 3/5 |


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