Thierry Massoubre and Christian Seguret are two French guitar players who have obviously steeped themselves in the tradition of American acoustic and bluegrass music. Their release Guitares features 14 songs with some impressive picking skills and excellent taste. Most of the songs are originals, primarily guitar duets, with four vocal numbers included. With fine dobro work by Henrich Novak, and accompanied by Susi Gott on fiddle and harmony vocals, and Olivier Andres on bass, this recording shows how far bluegrass music has reached and how close are the connections between Bill Monroe and Django Rheinhart. It's all just great acoustic music at its core.
Over the past decade or two, the role of the guitar in bluegrass music has changed substantially. It is now used as a lead instrument far more commonly than in the early days of bluegrass. Like much of the flatpicking from the 60s and 70s, the playing on Guitares is clean and very melodic, in the style of Watson and Crary, with only tasteful traces of Rice's more chromatic stylings evident. There's nothing here that wouldn't work in a bluegrass context, but bluegrass clearly isn't the focus here.
The medley Christmas Reel/Stylistic Reel shows some nice interplay between the two guitar players, swapping parts seamlessly. It has a nice, light touch, not rushed or overplayed. It's actually done with four (different!) guitars and a bass, and the effect is full and rich. I've always loved the crystal clear tone of Dan Crary's guitar on his album Lady's Fancy, and this recording comes as close to that as anything I've heard.
Seguret shows off a pleasing, soft vocal style on Bound For New Orleans and Dancin' Man. And Massoubre's solo number For You is a quiet beauty, delivered with a deft touch. For a change of pace, Kingstown is a full-speed scorcher that should find its way into every flatpicker's repertoire while Spirit of Suwannee is a slow waltz with some beautiful twin harmony parts.
I wouldn't classify Guitares as bluegrass, but there's enough drive and taste here to satisfy any bluegrass guitar fan. The production is excellent, the packaging attractive and there's plenty of music for your money. I don't know if it's available in the US (the only address in the liner is in France), but if you see a copy you should snap it up. It's a real winner.