CD Reviews 24 May 2016

Greg Thornburg hook echo cd coverGREG THORNBURG – Hook Echo

(2016  Self-Release)

Hook Echo is available for purchase at Greg Thornburg performances. You can sample the album here

Greg Thornburg will celebrate the release of Hook Echo at Wurst Times Festival VI on May 28th. He performs at 11:15 a.m. on the MAMA High Noon Stage.


Many of you reading this are no doubt familiar with Madison alt-Americana band the Getaway Drivers. You should be if you’re not, especially their excellent Bellatopia recording (read the review here). Greg Thornburg is the band’s drummer and it may surprise the band’s fans to find what a sensational guitarist he is. Hook Echo is Thornburg’s second album of instrumental guitar pieces following up on his 2013 release entitled Kaleidoscope. It was co-produced with fellow Getaway Driver Bob Manor and was engineered and recorded in Manor’s Powers Studio.

The sound on Hook Echo is fantastic. The bass is deep and resonant and there is just enough sparkle to enhance Thronburg’s exquisite tone. Just check out his stupendous instrumental version of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Thornburg imbues this hard rock standard with so much sensitivity and finesse. All the intricacies of Jimmy Page’s masterful guitar work are present.

For the Getaway Drivers, the loss of cellist Steve Pingry to cancer has been difficult to overcome and that fact makes itself known in several places. “Inspiration:SP5” is a short bite of a piece Pingry, also a guitarist, was working on. It leads right into “SisBroHusWif,” Thornburg’s adaptation of that piece. Not everything Thornburg does here is plectrum-less and this one has a sinister low-end theme that runs through it. As such, fans of Steve Howe’s solo acoustic guitar work and his inspiration, Chet Atkins, will appreciate many of the tunes, especially “Doubtful Bones.”

Another Getaway Driver alum, Sheila Shigley contributes a song entitled “No Way to Know.” Her golden voice in combination with Thornburg’s guitar makes for a beautifully potent lament, no doubt inspired by the loss of Pingry. The guitar expertly dances around the vocal melody and Thornburg’s interlude is gorgeously effective. Similar sentiments manifest on Thornburg’s solemn “Rest” which is dedicated “for those gone too soon.”

One of Thornburg’s signatures is his use of harmonics which he deftly employs throughout Hook Echo. “Watersong” uses these to great effect as Thornburg plays over a loop of harmonic tones. Thornburg uses guitar layers on other tracks, most notably the playful, bluesy opener “St. Lucia” and the heavily layered “Layer Cake,” which closes the album.

Another track, the Irish traditional “The Blackbird,” also deserves mention. Here Thornburg demonstrates his ability to pull off some very intricate fingerstyle passages. This one had me thinking back to Windham Hill recordings and the likes of Alex DeGrassi and William Ackerman. High praise indeed.

Hook Echo is just a wonderful recording. Sweet, sensitive and bursting with loving care. Much like the man who created it. Madison is just simply astounding with its diversity of talent and Thornburg is another of those mystically multi-talented craftspersons that dwells in our midst.

Here is a video of Thornburg performing “Joyful” from his Kaleidoscope release:

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About the author

Rick Tvedt

Rick is publisher of Local Sounds Magazine, formerly Rick's Cafe, Wisconsin's Regional Music Newspaper. He is also the Executive Director for MAMA, Inc., a non-profit organization that produces the Madison Area Music Awards and raises funds to promote youth music programs.

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