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World Music CD Reviews North American

Elliot Sharp’s Terraplane

By John Kuhlman
Published October 5, 2007

Secret Life

This is the fourth album from Elliot Sharp’s longstanding mutant-blues outfit, and something of a confusing listen. Sharp is an excellent guitarist, drawing his technique as much from the tradition of avant string-benders Henry Kaiser and Hans Reichel as from any traditional bluesmen. The band mostly forgoes the somatic push and pull of traditional blues for a more open-ended kind of jazz processional, which leaves enormous empty spaces for Sharp to roam, blasting out his dense knotted lines. But it’s a technique that’s less successful on the tracks featuring vocals, since the lack of traditional tunes forces them to recite the lyrics instead of singing them. So the whole project may seem a little chilly for some blues enthusiasts, but Hubert Sumlin thinks enough of Terraplane to sit in for a couple of tracks, and it’s hard to think of a better endorsement than that.