A finger style acoustic guitar player using alternate tunings. The style is a bit new age, a bit ambient, and a bit just plain hard to describe. Somewhere back 2001 or 2002 he began to dabble with alternative tunings and quickly headed down the path that has resulted in the CD Borderline Normal. The tunes on this CD have evolved over the past few years and were recorded in various rooms of my home; A homegrown project all the way around with the exception of the mastering by Bill Wolf (Al Petteway, Jim Tozier, Brooks Williams, etc.) and art work by Glenn Wolff, a fellow Traverse City, Michigan resident and well known artist and bass player for the Neptune Quartet. New to the music scene and relatively new to finger style guitar, James' primary guitars are both hand built, one from Irish luthier Dermot McIlroy and the other from American Simon Fay. 'James Filkins's acoustic guitar CD derives it's title from the alternate tunings of it's 14 tracks. However, no ability to comprehend cryptic annotations like 'DGDGBD' and 'DADF#AD' is necessary: the clear, melodic instrumentals on Borderline Normal speak eloquently for themselves. If you like the sound of fingerpicked acoustic guitar, this CD is for you -- and if you don't, Borderline Normal may just succeed in converting you. Except for some silvery chimes and light percussion on a few of the tracks, it's pretty much just James Filkins and his acoustic guitars for the full 50 minutes of the CD. This turns out to be a very good thing. His compositions are crisp and confident, yet produce a relaxed, easygoing ambience. The CD opens with the well-titled piece, 'Round Lake Leelanau (A Biking Tune),' a track redolent with fresh air and open space. Like a musical game of Marco Polo, the clear, high refrain, slightly evocative of a bicycle bell, seems to call and answer the warmer underlying melody. The rest of the tracks can be divided into two basic camps: those with percussion and those without. The title cut and 'Possibilities' are upbeat and sunny, their sauntering pace accentuated by laidback conga and djembe rhythms. 'Early Morning Promises' and 'A Bleak December' are slower and more contemplative guitar solos. Because all 14 tracks are more or less mellow and cohesive in tone, it's difficult to pick out favourites. On the upside, there are definitely no clunkers. Filkins gets just about everything right with Borderline Normal. Part of the charm is the utter lack of pretension: the liner notes comment that the recording was 'engineered and produced by James Filkins, if at all.' There are no synthesisers or cheesy sound effects, just good, unadulterated guitar music and sound quality so sharp that it often seems like Filkins is playing in the same room. What is all the more surprising is that the tracks were recorded in his own home. Uncluttered and full of homegrown integrity, this CD is the perfect companion to a summer afternoon on the porch with a good book. Not that it should be relegated to background music; it's unobtrusive but fully worthy of your attention. I've never cared for the word 'borderline' with it's implications of being only-just-good-enough. Disregard the name: Borderline Normal is very good indeed. -Jennifer Mo, Rambles.NET "... a treat for the ears... very reflective ... His guitar music feels like a continuous flow of inspiration of the deeper layers of the soul." -Henk te Veldhuis, "Bridge Guitar Reviews" (Jan. 2007) Borderline Normal is an easy listen... soothing music that calms the spirit. The sound quality is top-notch, which really showcases Filkins' playing and the wonderful tone of the guitars.' - Jim Tozier, Solid Air Records Recording Artist (Feb 1, 2007)
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