Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Washington's Childe Harold for sometime has had a reputation as a "pickin' parlor." It's been a home to many gifted, though not necessarily well-known, acoustic guitarists, so Thursday night's good turnout for a solo guitar twi bill was not surprising.
The artists featured were Dale Miller and Duck Baker, both of whom have some roots in this region. Their music, however, is universal in both its tradiitons and its appeal.
Both cover a lot of territory from Blind Blake and Bo Carter rags to Scottish airs to Appalachian fiddle tunes to Beatles medleys.
Each guitarist has his own approach, so that even when they are drawing from the same source the effect is different. Miller has the lighter, slightly more expressive touch. He can insert a puncy dissonance on the humorous "Cheap Wine" or throw in obvious quotations from other songs that even a non-guitarists can appreciate.
Baker is a bit more forceful, even though he favors a nylon-string flamenco guitar to Miller's custom-made steel-sting insturment. His particular technique includes what he calls "modal improvisation," which means improvising while playing the characteristic alternating base line.
Both guitarists were charming, not above a little hucksterism in the promotion of their albums on the all-guitar Kicking Mule label. Their fine technical skills will be echoed throughout October as the Childe Harold brings in several distinctive guitar stylists: Lew London and Jim Post (today and Sunday), blues specialist Chris Smither and ragtime wonder John Jackson (Oct. 8 and 9), and all-around pickers Geoff Muldaur and Amos garett (Oct. 27 and 29).