Peter Finger

Open Strings

by Chris Massey


This man is amazing with an acoustic guitar. His name is well known to anyone who has more than a passing interest in the instrument. Peter Finger has been making albums for over 25 years, and for good reason: the man is a virtuoso. From the busy intro of the “101 South” to the harmonic exit of “Visions,” Open Strings is an acoustic guitar lovers delight.

Mr. Finger is appropriately named—the man is fast! This is the first aspect of Mr. Finger’s playing that most will notice. Not only is the man a demon on the frets, his sound is also crisp and clean. There’s no fudging at the frets here. Just listen to the deep picking of “Black Sea Impressions,” as it bounces from the seemingly chaotic finger picking up and down the neck, muted and far from serene, to the open cacophony of six strings all ringing for attention…then a quiet relaxing of the tempo, of the urging of the track, and before you know it the man is eating up the guitar again. This is typical of most of the album. His music tends not to linger long upon any particular phrasing or melody, leaning toward the lull, leaning toward the march, quiet again. After close listening there is no relaxing during the entirety of the album. His work is full of secrets to be discovered and new heights to explore.

The balance between the music of the masters and the tapestry of the contemporary is also quite outstanding. One will wonder at the organic chemistry he gives to blues licks next to classical arpeggios, the dense, almost country twang intermixed with the trappings of Stravinsky.

This is all very technical, of course, and appeals mainly to guitar aficionados. What I found myself wishing for was a soul. The music is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it often fails on a basic level to move me. This failure to touch my emotions often had me listening more to the fantastic finery of his technical brilliance than to what the song itself was trying to say. The album is hardly a failure—as any acoustic guitarist, including myself, can attest—but when the music comes to a close after 11 tracks, I often found myself curiously empty and unmoved.

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