The Fifth Row – Stuart Weber

The quiet, intimate nature of the guitar is one of its most endearing characteristics and there are few guitarists around the world who haven’t stayed up late into the night playing in solitude. Stuart Weber’s new recording The Fifth Row manages to capture the reflective and intimate nature of the guitar and it also has a great story behind it.

Travelling around the Rocky Mountain Northwest in the United States, Weber recorded each track at a unique old theatre at the late hour of 3am. The old theatres that were used, did not have the soundproofing that modern concert venues have and it was a necessity to record well into the night to have a quiet environment. The audiophiles out there will enjoy listening to the very subtle differences on each track, however, for me, the imagery and romanticism of the story behind the recording is the most interesting aspect and it influences the entire listening experience.

Weber’s playing on the CD has a full and earthy sound that is different from most of todays highly perfected recordings. Many modern recording artists will take great pains to eliminate any extraneous sounds on a recording while carefully sculpting the sound in post-production. Weber allows the guitar to sing in its own gritty and earthy voice that has a broad range of colors. Weber says, in his beautifully presented liner notes, that “I did nothing to filter out the creaking and popping noises the theater itself made as it cooled in the night air. In fact, I welcomed them.” Weber plays with a lot of character that will appeal to a broad audience and his own compositions manage to hold their own alongside some light offerings by Bartok, Telemann and Dvorak. Tango on Spanish Creek (track 6 by S. Weber), is for me the standout track on the recording with a folk-like feel and a particularly attractive use of harmonics.

The recording is on the shorter side coming in at under 35 minutes and its repertoire does not delve into particulary complex harmonic language or stuctures. The Fifth Row is, however, an absolute pleasure to listen to and it will appeal to a broad range of listeners.

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