Sharon Isbin, Journey to the New World (Sony Classical, 2009)

Well known in the classical music world, guitarist Sharon Isbin has made over twenty-five recordings. On her latest album Journey to the New World, Isbin crosses over into territory more commonly associated with folk music. She incorporates pieces from several different time periods, thematically linked by their connection to people who made the voyage across the Atlantic before settling in America.

Isbin starts with some baroque pieces from the British Isles, focusing on material that would have been played by early American settlers. She then moves on to a suite of instrumental adaptations of vintage American material from the singing of Joan Baez. This suite is bookended by a pair of songs featuring the venerable Baez herself. The album concludes with a long suite of tunes featuring guest
fiddler Mark O'Connor, who like Isbin is a primarily classical performer with an active interest in traditional folk music. This suite starts with some Irish-style tunes, before veering into some blues and ragtime and other distinctly American styles. Throughout Journey to the New World, Isbin mixes relatively unfamiliar material with standards like "Greensleeves" and "House of the Rising Sun," often embellishing the melodies as she plays them to the point that you have to listen closely to recognize the tune.

In short, Journey to the New World is an fine collection of folk music interpreted from the unusual perspective of a classical guitarist. Sharon Isbin is an exceptional player, and people looking for good guitar music will find lots to like here.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

For a video of Sharon Isbin performing some material from this album live, click here.

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