Like a handful of musicians -- such as Leo Kottke, Martin Taylor and Bert Jansch -- Pierre Bensusan can make a single acoustic guitar sound like an entire band, implying chordal harmonies, percussive accents and bass lines even as he darts through flights of melody. It's enough to hear the Frenchman's guitar by itself, as on his 2001 album, "Intuite," or on eight of the 14 tracks on his new CD, "Altiplanos." On the six other tracks, however, he adds his voice or a few extra instruments to offer a welcome variation on his sound without spoiling its essential intimacy.
Bensusan's unadorned guitar can be heard on the South American-influenced title track, the Celtic-flavored air "La Dame de Clevedon" and the African American-gospel-inspired hymn "If Only You Knew." The guitarist adds wordless scat vocals and whistling to "Falafel a Montsegur," a combination of two earlier tunes, and sings in French on "Demain, des l'Aube," a setting of a Victor Hugo poem, and on "La Nuit des Meteores," which boasts new lyrics by Bensusan's wife for his old song "4 a.m." On three tracks, he switches to multi-tracked electric guitar and adds guest musicians, including Gong's Didier Malherbe, who plays Armenian flute on "Tacita."
No matter the approach, Bensusan constructs single-note guitar lines that suggest both melody and harmony as they keep the music tumbling forward. That momentum, coupled with the music's obvious yearning, lends even the wordless instrumentals the feel of personal storytelling.
-- Geoffrey Himes
Appearing Thursday at Jammin' Java.