I first came to recognize Adrian Legg through one of his music videos, believe it or not! I can envision him walking in the snow as a delightful acoustic guitar played over the footage, around the time of either Guitar for Mortals or Mrs. Crowe’s Blue Waltz. There was also a cow, I think. But enough about that! The complexity of Legg’s playing was and still is surpassed only by the melodic nature each song took, something a bit like Mark Knopfler but not sacrificing anything in terms of quality for radio airplay. Nearly ten years after that period, Legg continues to tour the world with his guitar, his nimble and agile fingers, and an ongoing exploration of what he can make work with some strings and wood. This latest release is proof that Legg is only limited by what he hasn’t decided to discover or uncover yet.
Whether it is a jumpy, folksy, and warm opening like “Nefertiti—What a Sweetie!” or a harder, Jimmy Page intro to a Led Zeppelin song attempt later on, Legg is the centerpiece on this fine body of work. The first track has a toe-tapping folk-meets-be-bop feel as Legg plays a similar set of chords over again before going down a bluesier Delta road around the two-minute mark. The meticulous approach to his playing is superb as he gives the listener a laid back and relaxing tune to soak up and delve into. Just as stellar is the sparser and somewhat melancholic “My Blackbird Sings All Night”, as he rides the melody up and down and back up again. The song is also closely compared with the likes of the late Chet Atkins and, to a lesser extent, Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck. Another asset is Legg knowing when to alter or adjust the song to avoid ennui or a trace of boredom on his and the listener’s part.
More of a minstrel waltz is, er, “A Waltz for Leah”. You can imagine Legg walking under branches and over tree trunks through a dense British forest as a series of merry men stroll behind him with a lute, harp, or tin whistle. Almost coming off like a swaying lullaby, Legg’s mastery of the instrument has never been more apparent, making you want to hit the repeat but before it’s a third of the way completed. It’s perhaps the easiest and quickest five minutes you’ll enjoy this year. Legg shows his wares often on the blues-driven, Zeppelin-lite “More Fun in the Swamp”, an aptly titled song as Legg is knee-deep in the bayou on this one. It turns on a dime from a “hey, look at me play” solo into another folk-oriented tune that glides along as you bob your head.
The lone number which perhaps ventures into a “muzik” mode is the introspective interlude-ish “Nail Talk”. Dark and melancholic like a Celtic lament, the guitar work is augmented by a rich assortment of keyboards that raise the song and then lower it again. It pales to the ensuing Celtic reel entitled “Doublejigs” that brings to mind a tranquil Paddy Moloney leading the Chieftains. “Decree” is not a highlight as Legg relies too often on soaring, ethereal keyboards in the introduction to drive his message home. It might work far better at the credits list on a motion picture. It’s only saving grace is its rather brief duration.
Perhaps Legg’s crowning achievement is the rampant and well-crafted “The Good Soldier”, a special homage to his grandfather who was blinded in the Somme during the First World War. Paying tribute to him, Legg uses all of his abilities to provide an engaging and memorable three minutes. Closing with “Emneth”, which is part guitar and part organ, Legg is head and shoulders above most guitarists of his or any generation.