Northern Sky EMagazine (UK)

Planet Solitaire – Virtuoso guitarist Walter Strauss brings something extraordinary to his guitar playing as he continues to explore World influences such as the West African music of Guinean band Ba Sissoko, Malian kamal’ngoni player Mamadou Sidibe and fellow Malian, the kora player Mamadou Diabate. Transferring these complex pieces onto just six strings is no mean feat; the results are astonishing. Having spent many years honing his craft as a sideman and session player, working alongside such artists as Vassar Clements, Martin Simpson, Corinne West and Alex de Grassi, Strauss embarked on his solo career with PULLING SHADOWS (2005), which demonstrated the work of a distinctively original guitar player.

If the first album leant towards jazz, incorporating the assistance of several musicians from around the world, this second and very much solo release certainly owes more to a healthy World influence with a rich tapestry of diverse sounds. Strauss explores the fret board with an ardent acquisitive curiosity. If the instrumentals hint at the places the guitar has never before ventured, the songs also have a curious innovation about them, exploring uncommon time signatures and ambitious subjects. The Salamander for instance, views the world through the eyes of a woodland amphibian. Ishi tells of the last surviving member of the Native American Yana people, who survived forty-years hiding in the foothills of Mount Lassen in California before reluctantly integrating himself into modern society. Such songs have a curious appeal.

Along with several traditional West African pieces such as Djeli, Soutoukou and Djimbaseh, Strauss also includes something closer to home, selecting a handful of verses from a sprawling Woody Guthrie song The Great Historical Bum as well as paying homage to one of the most notable British musicians to embrace World Music very early on, George Harrison, with a spirited instrumental version of the Sgt Pepper classic Within You, Without You, which captures the beauty of the actual melody of the song, which we suspect was probably overlooked in 1967. – Allan Wilkinson