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Sir Richard Bishop: Fingering the Devil

Sir Richard Bishop: Fingering the Devil

Release Date:2006

By Marc Masters | Posted 5/17/2006

Sir Richard Bishop’s third album of steely acoustic guitar instrumentals opens with a surprisingly catchy tune. Sprinting through a looping melody via inhumanly fast picks and strums, “Abydos” is sharp and dizzying—the No. 1 hit John Fahey never had. It’s also a tease; the remainder of Fingering the Devil is tougher to pin down. Exploratory improvisations, impatient turns, and aching, slow ballads keep finger-snapping at bay. But given time, each of Bishop’s tunes proves as rewarding as the simple pleasures of “Abydos.”

Bishop’s previous solo albums had a similarly sneaky quality, but Fingering the Devil takes the tactic to new heights. On “Dream of the Lotus Eaters,” small clusters of notes simultaneously weave and unravel, while “Spanish Bastard” fires out frantic, stair-climbing strums with the pulse of an irregular heartbeat. Later, the sinister “Black Eyed Blue” crafts a gunfight soundtrack out of impulsive chords and halting half-melodies. Bishop’s idiosyncratic swirl of time-tested flavors—the avant-classical pickings of Fahey, the delicate gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt, the worldly street-folk of Bishop’s own Sun City Girls—creates an oddly unpredictable familiarity. He continues to travel restlessly from idea to idea, like a rocket shuttling back and forth between the earth and the stars.

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