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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review: Doug Yeomans & Ben Doerfel - Generation Gap

Doug Yeomans & Ben Doerfel - Generation Gap
2009, Roots Music Records

Doug Yeomans is a Western, New York singer/songwriter and guitarist who can play almost anything with six strings on it. A renowned guitarist in Jazz, Rock, Blues and Bluegrass, Yeomans has one international guitar competition win under his belt and nearly 40 years of performance experience. Ben Doerfel is still in his middle teens and already picks a six string better than a host of people who have been doing it all their lives. The two team up on the wonderful collection entitled Generation Gap.

Generation Gap opens with Gold Rush, a classic fiddle tune that's done here with great texture and nuance. Yeomans and Doerfel trade runs with aplomb in a gentle game of one-upmanship where the only winner is the listener. Big Sciota is of a slightly gentler nature. This tune has been recorded by everyone from Jerry Douglas to Old Crow Medicine Show and is an old Bluegrass favorite. Yeomans and Doerfel show off a bit here, pulling off some fast and fancy fretwork in what might be the best technical recording on the disc. Up next is Wildwood Flower, a song written in 1860 by Joseph Philbrick Webster and made famous by The Carter Family. The tune itself was also used by Woody Guthrie for the verses of The Sinking Of The Reuben James. Yeomans And Doerfel treat Wildwood Flower with much deference, offering a soft and meandering reading that is a pleasure to listen to.

Shady Grove is another American Folk Song with roots in both Celtic and Bluegrass traditions. It's been recorded by a score of notable artists including Jerry Garcia and Dave Grisman, Bill Monroe, Patty Loveless and Crooked Still. Doug Yeomans provides the vocal line very capable, but the picking is where the real action is at. Yeomans and Doerfel push each other to new heights in a bit of inspired play. Yeomans breaks out the banjo on Salt Creek, while Doerfel handles guitar duties. The interplay of the two instruments here is magical. Yeomans also kicks in through the wonders of technology with a second guitar part. Louise finds the duo taking a break from serious picking for a sweet and mellow country song. Yeomans is in wonderful voice.

After that brief interlude, Yeomans and Doerfel are right back at it on Clinch Mountain Backstep, a case of musical finger calisthenics with a serious Bluegrass feel. The guitar work here is so good it will make you weep. Bill Cheatham is another Bluegrass standard that's been recorded by folks such as Doc Watson, Leo Kottke and Chet Atkins. Yeomans and Doerfel both earn their CGPs on this gem. St. Anne's Reel explores the Celtic roots of bluegrass with a gentle touch that makes for a highly pleasant listen. Cherokee Shuffle is a traditional tune popularized by Fairport Convention. This is a technically difficult song to play and the duo make it sound easy. Generation Gap concludes with an instrumental take on Amazing Grace that grows from a meandering, pensive opening to a bluesy run to a verse played in the ethereal harmonic tones of the string-tops before ending on a vaguely jazzy reading.

Doug Yeomans and Ben Doerfel pull of an amazing performance on Generation Gap, made all the more impressive by the fact that Doerfel was only fourteen at the time it was recorded. The market for this sort of guitar instrumental album is somewhat limited, but if you are a guitar player, or particularly if you're learning, this is an album you must own. Fiddle tunes are often forgotten by players once they've used them in lessons to master fretwork and fast-picking techniques, but Yeomans and Doerfel remind us of what a pleasure they can be to hear when done right.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Doug Yeomans at You can learn more about Ben Doerfel at I could locate no online outlet for Generation Gap, although if you contact Doug Yeomans through his website I’m sure he’ll be happy to sell you one.

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