Album review: IAGO BANET – Iago Banet

Iago Banet - Iago Banet

Razor Edge Records [Release date 07.11.2o]

Anglo-Spanish guitarist Iago Banet has all the right credentials for an acoustic guitarist. He’s Galician born (in the North West of Spain) and is equally at home on acoustic and electric guitar, though this album concerns itself only with the former.

He has an innate ability, versatility and vision to cover all styles from folk, gypsy jazz and blues, to country, traditional dance and swing.

This self titled album is actually his second solo release, but is effectively being marketed as an introductory solo album.  His profile has grown significantly with a parallel career as an electric guitarist with tour bands such as Deep Blue Sea – who morphed into ColorColour - The Boo-Hoos and JFK Blue.

He’s influenced by the great guitar pickers such as  Merle Travis, Chet Atkins and latterly Tommy Emmanuel. And he shares their ability to paint pictures on his fret board through a delightful lightness of touch, fluidity and that rare ability to share emotions through his fingers.

It’s all there on the opening ‘Itchy Feet’ as his delicate touch and occasional percussive accompaniment evokes the song title perfectly.

There’s a similar connection to be found on the meditative ‘Morning At Greenwich Park’ on which his notes are slower and more deliberate, as he allows himself to capture every nuance of the song.

It feels as if he’s sharing a private moment in time or offering the perspective of a painter’s gaze.  Indeed when he almost pauses at the 2.10 minute mark, he could be stopping to take in an imaginary view, before continuing his journey with more carefully chosen notes.

And it’s that concept of a musical journey that lies at the core of this very engaging album, which at no point lets technique take precedence over feel.

His aesthetic approach is mirrored by the album art work and the expressionistic song titles.

At the conclusion of listening to ‘Morning At Greenwich Park, I returned to the album notes to remind myself what the track was called. And it all made perfect sense, as his music is delivered through an artist’s prism with an emotional sensibility.

Strong imagery also infuses the restlessness of ‘Rush Hour’, on which his nifty finger picking suggest constant movement.  His note clusters subtly build up a tension, which is broken only by a few repeated chord strums, before he returns to the push and pull of a song that captures a moment in our daily lives.

Everything about this album flows effortlessly as a result of his superb playing ability and the pre-planning of the album itself.

His clever placement of the 2 cover songs in his 9 song playlist adds much to the trajectory of the album as a whole, with the added bonus of the perfect bookend.

His first cover is the traditional Galician dance melody ‘Muiñeira de Chantada’, which has drawn many musicians to the piece, including Carlos Núñez and The Chieftains.

Banet’s playful picking gives it a bright refreshing quality which he cleverly juxtaposes with the almost bluesy shuffle of ‘Octopus One’.

The latter is built on some mesmerising rhythms with a swinging undertow, over which he intricately weaves his guitar line with real purpose.

For the untutored ear, this album brings real diversity and contrast to bear on the acoustic guitar. Banet explores all the opportunities his material offers him with a joyous feel that transcends any suggestion of any red light studio nerves.

His playing counterbalances discipline with a spontaneous sense of abandon, no more so than on ‘There’s A Mouse In My Kitchen’ on which his playing moves into the realms of the subconscious, in 2.22 minutes of finger picking exhilaration.

His lighting fast runs never lose sight of the jaunty melody, while simultaneously pulling us into his breathless slipstream.

And just when you think he’s explored the full range of his abilities, he finishes with a stripped down version of Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’. Suffice it to say that perhaps only Iago Banet could bring something new and interesting to the standard.

He does so with a quirky walking bass figure and a repeated riff as he takes the scenic route to making an instrumental and emotional connection with the working tools of his trade, his fingers and nylon strings.

It’s a combination that serves him so well on an album that I would recommend without reservation to guitar and contemporary music fans alike.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra 

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