Gwenifer Raymond's "You Never Were Much of a Dancer" Is Finger-Picking Good!

In an era where virtuosity is seemingly shunned, here comes 32 year old Welsh-born finger picking Gwenifer Raymond who, listening to this album, you’d swear must have been born on the Appalachian trail somewhere south of the Mason Dixon line.

If her masterful guitar and banjo skills don’t sell, Ms. Raymond needn’t worry: she’s also got a PhD in astrophysics. However, it’s more than likely based on this debut album, that she’ll have a successful musical career—unless the Millennial P.C. crowd takes offense at her taxidermy fetish (the album cover features a bevy of stuffed creatures in a room that will remind ‘60s era oldsters of at least one ex-girlfriend’s from back then).

But back to the music. Ms. Raymond’s playing will surely remind you at times of John Fahey’s—there’s even a track titled “Requiem for John Fahey”. Ms. Raymond plays super-fast and not surprisingly, with mathematical precision, but she’s also somehow ingested the soul of the south.

By the time you get to “Oh, Command Me Lord!” the final track on side one, wherein she picks on a banjo at Mach 1 speed, while maintaining precise instrumental control and infusing the tune with warm earth under her bare feet, you’ll be a fan.

Turn over the record and on side two she’s skillfully sliding Delta Blues. Love to hear her onstage or in the studio with Ry! She has acquired a technical and soul-infused mastery of Delta Blues, Bluegrass, Gospel and other forms of musical Americana. She can be both brash as on the speedy banjo tracks and on “Sack ‘em Up, Parts 1 and II” calm and meditative.

Ms. Raymond began this musical journey with Nirvana. The group’s cover of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” probably from the MTV Unplugged in New York album led her to seek out American blues recordings and then, according to a story in U.K.’s “The Guardian”, she began taking guitar lessons from a teacher who turned her on to John Fahey.

Speaking of whom, Fahey was a serious audiophile and record collector so most of his albums were superbly recorded. The sound here is ‘serviceable’ but hardly up to Fahey’s sonic standards, not to mention the sonically incredible Sandy Bull Vanguard albums or the Renbourn and Jansch Transatlantic LPs. Ms. Raymond needs and deserves that level of recording quality, especially in terms of providing her with a sonic “setting” and environment. Also, the pressing quality is meh. But don’t let that stop you!

“It Was All Sackcloth and Ashes” ends the album on an introspective note, wherein Raymond picks almost as if on a sitar backed by thunder. The lightning is there too, in her hands.

Listen for yourself:

”Sometimes There’s Blood”

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