Chris Newman's "Still Getting Away With It" reviews
 

 

 

 
 
 
 

Ceili review: Chris Newman – “Still Getting Away With It” February 2012

By Chuck Bloom, NTIF Performer Products Coordinator

To paraphrase an old Alabama (country) song, “If You’re Gonna Play in Ireland, You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band.” The fiddle is the most recognizable sound associated with Celtic/Irish music and seems to be the centerpiece of nearly every quartet, quintet or other collaboration these days – from theatrical productions, such as “Celtic Woman,” to a pub band.

Others features harps; a few spotlight bagpipes. But the guitar often seems to be more of a background instrument – required by all means but not the star of the show.

While I love a good fiddler as well as the next guy, I’ve ALWAYS fantasized about playing the guitar like a virtuoso … someone like Chris Newman. He has been one of Britain’s premier acoustic masters and his brilliant work is on audio display with his second solo album, the 2010 release, “Still Getting Away With It.”

To label the 18-track collection as purely “Celtic” music would be inaccurate. There ARE jigs, reels and plenty of melodies to satisfy one’s Celtic fix.

But Newman, who first played for pay at the age of 5, is so much more of a diverse talent with the six-string. In a musical journey, which is, in essence, “Still Getting Away With It” is the story of his musical career, and one gets seduced by his jazz, East African, rag time and blues influences.

The journey is tremendously enhanced by the CD’s liner notes, which explains the history, significance and placement of each track in Newman’s own words. One learns of Newman’s past associations with such legends as Stephane Grappelli, Diz Disley, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh and Frankie Kennedy (founders of Altan), plus his longtime Old Bridge Music partners Maire Ni Chathahsaigh, Nollaig Casey and Arty McGlynn.

Pick a style suitable for acoustic styling, and it’s here on this album. What something that would have made Django Reinhardt proud? Try “Just a Drop to Steady Myself…” What to hear that East African influence? Go with “The High Life.” How about some blues? It’s here with “Moanin.’” More than one track (“Pear Drops and Fourteen Candles,” “Around the Houses”) show his jazz ability.

And on each track, Newman excels at the highest degree. “Air on a Shoestring” is a beautiful solo effort without any backing – just a man and his guitar practicing what he has been doing for decades. The final effort, “Closing Time,” is more of a lullaby, without the words, than any other possible description.

He is joined on the album by Casey and her fiddle, Ni Chathasaigh and her harp, McGlynn and his electric guitar and mandolin and New Zealander Davy Stuart, who contributed his mandolin track for “Cardrona Spring” from Christchurch, some 11,682 miles from the Old Bridge studios in Illkey, England. Ah, the wonders of modern digital technology.

Newman has been Newcastle University’s principal guitar instructor from the program’s inception and has published a book of compositions and arrangements, “Adventures with a Flatpick.” He is a composer, arranger and album producer, but most of all, he is a craftsman of the guitar.

“Still Getting Away With It” is the kind of album that fits perfectly with a leisurely Sunday morning, where one peaks over the Sunday Times to inhale some good coffee aroma … and appreciate a truly great talent. Because that’s what really great guitar music does for you.

This CD, plus, “Heartstring Sessions,” the collective efforts of Ni Chathahsaigh, Newman, Casey and McGlynn, will be available at the Performer Products booth, next to the Trinity Stage in the Centennial Building at NTIF.

For more information, go to www.oldbridgemusic.com.

 

 
 
 
  From The Irish Times - 22 April 2011  
 

Still Getting Away With It ***

The English acoustic guitarist and mandolinist, Chris Newman, may be more widely known for his collaborations with harpist Nollaig Ní Chathasaigh, but this solo recording will further secure his reputation for precision-engineered, lovingly crafted tunes.

Newman’s chosen title, Still Getting Away With It , might suggest some duping of the listener, but nothing could be further from the truth. Mixing his own, often mischievously titled, compositions such as Pear Drops and Fourteen Pounds and Air on a Shoestring with multiply jointed Québecois reels and Bluegrass borrowings, Newman occasionally allows virtuoso playing to overshadow the heart of the tunes.

Still, going head to head with The Mandoliquents’ Simon Mayer, Ní Chathasaidh, Arty McGlynn, Nollaig Casey and others, Newman’s party animal instincts are never far away.

Playful and incredibly dextrous.
Siobán Long

 

 
 
 
  From Minor7th.com - March 2011  
 

The first track on Chris Newman's CD "Still Getting Away With It" seems as though it's been misnamed. "Pear Drops and Fourteen Pounds" sounds as though a drinking song is in the works, but what instead follows is hauntingly beautiful, an insistent Celtic ebb and flow as hypnotic as waves on a rocky Irish seascape. The vibe changes serially over the course of five tracks, to jig ("Buddy, Can You Spare a Tune?") to Djangoesque jazz ("Just a Drop to Steady Myself") to Spanish ("Torrevieja") to Ragtime ("Temptation Rag") and back to what seems to be Newman's natural musical home, Celtic. If Newman has set out to prove his versatility on this disc, he's succeeded admirably. But an ability to jump styles does not wholly define a guitarist of excellence... Newman's effortless touch and ear for nuance certainly does.
Alan Fark

 

 
 
 
  From Songlines - March 2011  
 

Subtle and mature acoustic fusion ***

Taking the time out from his duo with Irish harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh and their quartet with Arty McGlynn and Nollaig Casey (who guest among others), this is only the fourth solo album in 40 years for English-born performer, arranger and composer Chris Newman. Playing beautiful acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin and bass, he generously plies his unshakable technique to over an hour's worth of sumptuous instrumental performances encompassing English, Irish, American, Canadian, Swedish and African styles.
With a background in folk, jazz and even comedy, this consummate and confident stylist contributes ten original compositions to the album's 18 tracks, which include Swedish polska and Northumbrian hornpipe influences on 'Three Degrees of Separation', 'Québec Reels' (taught to him by the Québecois band La Bottine Souriante) and the somewhat kitsch but pleasing homage to Costa Bravan hotel bands, 'Torrevieja'. In addition, 'The High Life', which was fine-tuned with the help of Sierra Leone's Abdul Tee-Jay's Rokoto band, is the summation of Newman's lifelong interest in East African guitar bands and perhaps the album highlight.
With such an exuberant range, the album does at times lose focus in its somewhat erratic shifts in direction. Nonetheless, the occasionally curious pacing, coupled with the restraint and reserve shown in performance, will mean that listeners will enjoy what is ultimately a rewarding set of mature and deeply personal music.
Jon Mitchell

 

 
 
 
  From R2 (Rock n Reel) - January-February 2011  
 

Still Getting Away With It *****

First coming to some sort of public notice with The Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra (who I'm going to mention in every issue of R2 until their recordings are reissued) and now best known for his acclaimed work with Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Chris Newman has established himself as one of the real English masters of the acoustic guitar.
Although consisting of new recordings, this collection is conceived as a musical autobiography, charting the journey from the serious young five-year old on the front cover to the slightly more mature artist on the rear, via the hairy bloke who appears throughout the booklet. And what a captivating journey it is, taking in traditional music from all corners of the British Isles and beyond - country blues, swing, ragtime, Latin, jazz and African styles.
What holds it all together is the exuberance of Newman's dazzling playing, which displays the sort of fingerwork that would leave you open-mouthed if you weren't too busy smiling. This is a genuinely uplifting album of some of the most remarkable - yet accessible - guitar playing you're going to hear all year.
Oz Hardwick

 

 
 
 
  From The Living Tradition - January-February 2011  
 

A seriously gaping abyss of 12 years since his last solo album, Chris Newman returns triumphant with a concise exercise in the art of acoustic guitar playing. As usual a wide variety of styles are showcased here, from ragtime and swing guitar to Irish airs, Québecois tunes, Swedish polkas, country and African crossover. Luckily for me, I love all of these guitar styles, and I'm fully conscious that I'm in the presence of greatness here - 18 instrumental tracks (10 of which are self-penned and a further five his arrangements of traditional tunes), and all of them chosen with care and relish by one of the top guitarists of his ilk anywhere. The supporting cast ain't bad either, including Simon Mayor, Arty McGlynn, Máire Ní Chathasaigh (of course) and her sister Nollaig Casey, as well Chris's own brother Mark (also a fine guitarist). Even his electric contributions on Stratocaster belong on the same radar as the acoustic majority (the track Moanin' is sublime).
Temptation Rag (or Temptation Bag if you were to believe everything the electronic files tell you) is easily my personal fave, but that owes more to the style that I like to play (or attempt to) than anything else. I could have singled out any of these tracks as they all have a particular charm and collectively demonstrate this artiste's musical wizardry in the most succinct fashion. Lettin' your fingers do the talkin' again, Chris. A cracker.
Grem Devlin

 

 
 
 
  From Maverick magazine - January 2011  
 

Still Getting Away With It *****

Chris Newman is not only a really nice bloke but also one of my favourite ‘folk’ guitarists along with Simon Nicol, Frank Simon (ex-Bully Wee), Ken Nicol, Arty McGlynn and Tony McManus now that you ask…so, it goes without saying that I always expect great things and of course, Chris never fails to deliver. Forty years? Is that really how long he’s been plying his trade? Well, it would appear so from the information gleaned from the press notes and getting down to the nitty-gritty from the exquisite delicacy of the self-composed opening track “Pear Drops And Fourteen Pounds” (written to celebrate his earliest paid gigs) you can feel comfortable in the knowledge that here is a master-craftsman at the peak of his abilities. Surrounding himself with an equally talented bunch of musicians including partner Maire Ni Chathasaigh (harp), his brother Mark on guitar, Nollaig Casey (violin), Arty McGlynn (guitars) and Simon Mayor on mandolin the music presented is nothing short of astonishing! Virtuosity abounds from the fingers of Newman and as you go through the album you will be left breathless by the beauty of it all. With ten of his own compositions running alongside traditional numbers including “The Humours Of Kiltyclogher/Gusty’s Frolics” and the often utilised “Silver Spire” leading into the major/minor American country tune “The Cattle In The Cane” the quality of Newman’s digital dexterity are never in question. For those budding guitarists amongst you I couldn’t recommend an album more highly. Sit down (you’ll need to) listen and above all enjoy.
Pete Fyfe

 

 
 
 
  From Le Canard Folk - Janvier 2011  
 

Qui ne connait Chris Newman, le brillant guitariste et mandoliniste anglais? Tout récemment, nous vous présentons le cd qu’il a enregistré avec la harpiste Máire Ní Chathasaigh. Le voici à présent qui célèbre ses 40 ans de carrière avec quelques excellents musiciens. De la musiqui anglaise, écossaise et irlandaise surtout, mais aussi québécoise, américaine, un rag, un blues, un ou deux jazz… Il a joué avec Boys of the Lough, avec Stéphane Grappelli, Diz Disley. Son premier cd solo date de 1981, et c’est en 85 qu’il a décidé de tourner le dos au business pour revenir à ses racines folk. C’est donc une vaste expérience et beaucoups d’influences, mais aussi un sens de la composition, qui l’amènent à traverser les genres de manière très naturelle. Capable d’une énergie incisive (“Not likley”) tout comme d’une douceur enivrante (“Air on a shoestring”, “Closing time”), ce virtuose nous livre là une perle de plus.

 

 
 
 
  From Hallandsposten (Sweden) - 12 januari 2011  
 

Hyllad gitarrist spelar nyskrivet

Chris Newman har kallats mästare på akustisk gitarr, säkert flera gånger, och han brukar få lysande kritik inte minst för sina soloskivor. Nu var det ett tag sedan, ”Fretwork” utkom 1998. ”Still getting away with it”, Newmans fjärde soloalbum, var dock värt att vänta på, och speltiden är över en timme.

18 stycken ryms totalt, varav hälften nyskrivna. Det mesta låter varmt och melodiskt, lättsmält men också raffinerat. Impulser hörs från många håll – England, Skottland, Irland, Nordamerika och även Sverige. Den keltiska menyn blandas med country, ragtime, swing och afrikansk musik. Ändå låter det inte splittrat. Newman rör sig ledigt över alla fält, och han är onekligen i gott musikaliskt sällskap.
Gert-Ove Fridlund

 

 
 
 
  From Taplas - December 2010/ January 2011  
 

Let's get it straight from the start: this is a great album by one of the foremost exponents of the acoustic guitar. Newman, whose varied career spans 40 years, has played with Boys of the Lough, Diz Disley, Stephane Grappelli and even wrote the tune for and produced Fred Wedlock's The Oldest Swinger in Town, which reached number four in the charts. For the last 23 years he has been best known as half of a duo with Máire Ní Chathasaigh.

In this celebratory album, he shows off his eclectic virtuosity on various guitars and mandolin with 18 stunning tunes sets, including 10 of his own. He starts with Pear Drops and Fourteen Pounds, the payment for a couple of early gigs. Every subsequent track captivates and all somehow get better each time they're heard. It ends too soon with a breakneck 12-bar blues, Not Likely! followed by the reflective Closing Time.

Stellar guests: Nollaig Casey, Paul Buckley, Simon Mayor, Arty McGlynn, Davy Stuart, Roy Whyke, his brother Mark and Máire Ní Chathasaigh enhance the mix often taking the lead while Newman, not so quietly, sits back. Definitely more than getting away with it.
Iain Campbell

 

 
 
 
  From Shreds and Patches magazine - issue 50 Autumn/Winter 2010/11:  
 

Guitar maestro Chris Newman shows off his talents in an 18-track album of instrumentals that will be of interest to anyone who plays, has ever played, or would like to play this instrument. The guitar was almost exclusively the instrument of choice in the early days of the folk revival, and a number of musicians developed their skills to a virtuoso level. Whilst the range of musical instruments available has become huge in comparison to those pioneering days, the guitar remains a versatile tool in the performer's armoury.

Chris's repertoire is broad, although there is a smooth, controlled approach throughout the the album, with plenty of examples of his precise, yet relaxed technique that allows the music to swing. Pieces range from self-penned works that often have a soft-rock feel, through to the more jazzy Temptation Rag (well known as a mandolin player's test piece after Dave Swarbrick and Martin Carthy recorded it), Not Likely and the classic Moanin'.On then to some cleverly played Irish reels - and of course a Quebecoise set!

The copious notes in the booklet that accompanies the CD tell a fascinating story of Chris's playing over the years, with photographic evidence of his work with Diz Disley, Stephan Grappeli and Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra. He was also a member of Boys of the Lough for three years and his experience in playing Irish music on the guitar is displayed on a jig duet with Arty McGlynn, who joins a number of excellent guest musicians on the very impressive collection.
Neil Brookes

 

 
 
 
  From Folk London - December 2010:  
 

This CD (and its title) is a nod to Chris Newman's 40-year career as a fine guitarist, mandolinist and composer. It's structured as a musical biography in which Newman charts the musical styles and personalities that have shaped his playing.

There's a fine swing to Newman's playing, as you'd expect from someone influenced by Diz Disley, and who's played alongside Stéphane Grappelli. He brings this panache to a number of musical styles. Herer there are rags and straightforward 12-bar romps (Not Likely! is a Grappelli-ish number with Simon Mayor). His swing jazz sits happily with traditional Irish, Quebecois and American tunes, and his own pieces also show the influence of West African, Spanish and Scandinavian music.

He not only revisits pieces from his past, but welcomes aboard some wonderful guest musicians of the calibre of Mayor, brother Mark, Nollaig Casey, Arty McGlynn, and long-time partner Máire Ní Chathasaigh. This isn't the kind of CD I'd normally reach for, but Newman's playing has quality stamped all over it. At its best it has an exuberant joy that is a delight.
Paul Cowdell

 

 
 
 
  From Scotland on Sunday 7 November 2010:  
 

Still Getting Away With It * * * *
A superb guitarist, partner of the doyenne of Irish harp players Maire Ni Chathasaigh and a former member of Boys of the Lough, Chris Newman has always been musically omnivorous, and reveals the astonishing variety of his repertoire, style and technique in these 18 tracks. With studio guests that include guitar star Arty McGlynn, fiddler Nollaig Casey, mandolin maestro Simon Mayor, and Maire on harp, this is a joy-filled romp through blues, back-porch pickin', Quebec reels, Django swing jazz chordings, bluegrass, African high-life, ragtime, Irish jigs and beyond, and is a must-buy for any guitar player.
Norman Chalmers

 

 
 
 
  From Netrhythms - October 2010:  
 

It’s a well-known fact that upon hearing Chris play, many aspiring guitarists have just thrown their instrument into a skip vowing never to play again (whereas others have been inspired to greater achievement!). So, you could say that Chris is the “guitarist’s guitarist” – but remember, he’s no slouch on the mandolin, and he’s also widely acclaimed for his composing and arranging work.

And now he proudly presents, in celebration of his just-over-40-year career, his latest solo CD (only the fourth!), which he describes as a disc he always wanted to make. It contains 18 satisfying, mostly guitar-led excursions across and within a bewildering number of musical boundaries. Eclectic and ever-inventive, the music on this outstanding disc (much of it composed by Chris himself) takes us briskly through all imaginable moods, from the darkly extravagant Pear Drops And Fourteen Pounds (that’s a reference to Chris’s first two paid gigs, one at the tender age of five – or so the apocryphal story goes!) and a breakneck Hot-Club 12-bar concoction (Not Likely!) to the strangely haunting Air On A Shoestring; an intriguingly-named Three Degrees Of Separation (which points similarities between Northumberland’s 3/2 hornpipe and Sweden’s native polska); the effervescent Kinshasa township groove of The High Life; and the tenderly reflective Closing Time.

Chris pursues his own individual slant on barndances, Irish slip-jigs and Québecois reels, combining old-time with ragtime, blues and jazz with Hispanic: you name it…! But all with an exuberant abundance of intricate detail in the fretwork – delirious licks, fills and runs, delectable harmonics, delicate sostenuto – all of which demonstrates Chris’s unreserved love of music and a constant, unbridled delight in performing it, with a keen grasp of idiom that goes hand in hand with his super-skilled mastery of technique (not showing off for the sake of it but genuinely at the service of, and at the centre of his own personal take on, the music).

Balancing the virtuosity, though, there’s a spellbinding warmth in Chris’s immaculate playing, a consummate lyricism that never compromises the onward momentum, whatever the tempo adopted. On this new “solo” outing, Chris’s own intense yet lightly-worn virtuosity is mirrored in the quietly dazzling playing of the fellow-musicians he’s invited along; these include his older brother Mark (a darned fine guitarist too), mando maestro Simon Mayor, fellow-guitarists-extraordinaire Paul Buckley and Arty McGlynn, also brilliant harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh and her sister, the equally charismatic fiddle player Nollaig Casey; not to mention (but I must!) Roy Whyke who does sterling service at the trusty drumkit as and when required. With typically effacing modesty too, Chris is happy to sit back and let other musicians bask in the limelight on occasion (as he does for Mark and Paul on a deliciously smoky F-minor coast through Bobby Timmons’ Moanin’, for instance), invariably at just the right moment in the musical argument.

Chris’s own eager and easy engagement with, and thoroughly tasteful incorporation of, every musical genre under the sun makes him virtually a one-man Transatlantic Session on this scintillating, irresistible disc. It all adds up to a full-hour’s-worth of ingenious, classy and above all supremely entertaining tune-spinning that celebrates in true style the engaging musicianship of one of this country’s very finest instrumentalists.
David Kidman

 
     
     
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