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  • Writer's pictureLuke Wolk

Al Nesbitt and The Alchemy "A Million Shiny Things" Review

Artist: Al Nesbitt and The Alchemy

Album: A Million Shiny Things

Release: 2024

Al Nesbitt and The Alchemy are a fascinating ensemble that is very difficult to classify in any genre other than just plain cool guitar music! The latest release A Million Shiny Things is a seven song record that clocks in at 28 minutes. It is a unique musical journey that is on the fringe of many styles but truly living in its own space. The band consists of heavy hitters all coming together to create this hip set. Bassist Jeff Eason and drummer Bill Ray make up the rhythm section while Al Nesbitt and Wayne Tapia handle the guitar responsibilities.

The first thing that grabs the ear is the combination of what I hear as essentially a rock rhythm section that drives quite hard while supporting a nylon string guitarist. I suspect this record has to land in the contemporary jazz world at radio, but it is far more diverse than the constraints of the genre. To call it fusion is a bit of a stretch as well. It is truly a unique sonic adventure that is an inspiring listen at every turn. I suspect Al Nesbitt has some shred guitar in his bag of tricks, but chooses to lay it down acoustically with a hint of flamenco flavor peppered in. If the nylon string guitar lines were replaced by electric guitars the record would feel like a straight rock album, but thankfully he chose the acoustic path, creating a sound that embodies it all while still being very listenable to anyone, not just musicians.

Room 53 is a standout track, reminding me of Joe Satriani in composition. The rhythm section is deeply pocketed and laying into this piece like it owes them money. This song is a shining example of how the nylon string guitar completely alters the end product. It takes a straight rock song and turns it into something completely different on every level. What is so interesting is how the band still plays it like a rock band with serious chops but is never overbearing in any sense, but somehow just makes the acoustic guitar pop a bit harder while the acoustic guitar softens the attack of the band. It is simply a wonderful and dynamic balance of conflicting instrumentation and instincts.

Blowbacks is another really hip track with a floaty quality that reminds me of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai again in composition, but not in execution. The presence of the nylon strings takes so much of the angst out of the music and softens it up to the listeners ears. But those who know  what they're hearing will know for sure Al Nebitt is a player with serious guitar chops that when plugged in will take the listener on a shred assault that would impress Paul Gilbert.

Allegories and Guillotines is my favorite track on the record. This is one that feels a bit more steeped in Progressive Rock than the others. If Dream Theatre were to do an unplugged gig with Al Dimeola sitting in for good measure I feel like it would sound like this track. The busy drums bring this cut closer to the rock edge than most of the album, which I happen to really love. The push and pull between rock instincts and acoustic instrumentation is intoxicating and quite an exciting listen.

This album is a fiercely impressive work and must hear for guitar fans. To take a progressive  rock approach to acoustic guitar music is a gutsy move that was landed as smoothly as it could be. It flirts with Al Dimeola at times, but to my ears has more in common with the great rock instrumentalists like Satriani and Vai. But again because of the nylon strings it takes on a completely different voice that is both very listenable and quite unique. I highly recommend this album to guitar fans and folks with an adventurous musical side. Give it a spin, you won't be disappointed!

Check out this interview with Al Nesbitt as well!

Tell us the brief history of your band or musical career:

I spent my High School years in a small town in Alaska called ’North Pole’ - I am not kidding. Long winters lead to me coming to the conclusion that taking up an instrument rather than getting into trouble was probably a great idea. I had a friend

that loaned me ‘Diary of a Madman’. When I heard the opening riff to ‘Over the Mountain’ and then the solo for that same song, I was hooked. I knew I had to do THAT! Shortly after I somehow acquired ‘Friday Night in San Francisco (Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco 

De Lucia) and it also turned my world upside down. I had no idea acoustic guitars could be played that way.

What’s your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far? :

My favorite accomplishment so far is the completion of this newest album. What started with my first album ‘Fantastical Adventures Between the Raindrops’, which was experimenting and blending genres and styles. Flirting with Symphonic, Pop, Latin and other elements to create something cool and different, hit a new level with this album.

What made you want to play the instrument you play?:

Seeing pictures of Guitarists growing up I always thought they looked cool.

How are you continuing to grow musically?:

I listen to all styles of musicians love to play guitar, as much as I can. I still love to practice every day if and / when I can. Working on things that I’m not good at. Slowly working through new ideas, etc. Watching these new and amazing players is inspiring. I don’t try and play like them at all, but I am inspired by the creativity and talent of a handful of other players.

Are there any musicians who inspire you that are not famous? What qualities do you admire about them?:

So many amazing players out there. Locally here in Seattle one of the legends is a player named Danny Godinez - Danny just exudes music from the deepest parts of his being and what’s more is that he can connect to it and take the listener on his journey, almost without even thinking about it. It’s just a with that he has - as soon as he begins playing everyone is on board. It’s phenomenal.

What is your favorite piece of gear and why? :

My favorite piece of new ‘gear’ is my Godin ACS/SA Grand Concert guitar. It’s such a beautiful instrument that it’s hard not to want to play it more and more. Also, I began using nylon string guitars a few months ago due to some fret hand pain that I was experiencing in my thumb and index finger. Playing the nylon strings has helped immensely with that.

What do you like most about your new album?:

There are two things that I really love about the new album. The first is the sonic quality of it in general. It just sounds amazing. Spacious and rich. All the credit for that goes to my Co-Producer, ‘Big’ Chris Flores - we hit it off immediately and it was off to the races in building these songs from the ground up. After the band and I sent our STEM tracks to him, he and I began the process of constructing these songs - adding elements to make it sound richer and more robust. ‘Big’ Chris was instrumental in helping achieve that. You can easily see why guitarists like Slash and George Lynch have worked with him.

The second thing I love about the new album is the effective blending of genres and all of the sounds that we captured. Having an acoustic guitar be the starting point for each one these songs, allowed it remain center stage for the songs, but also each of my band mates brought their own flavor as well. I can’t say enough about the band. Phenomenal musicians and great human brings.

What artists do you enjoy listening to nowadays?:

I’m a sucker for production so I really love the textures and sounds that a lot of the Pop producers are getting.  The sounds themselves are just so cool. So for Pop, I’m loving Post Malone, YungBlud, Noah Kahan and of course Film Soundtrack stuff.

What does your practice routine consist of?:

Warm up, put a chord progression into my looping pedal and work out new ideas over it. Practice playing things I’m not fluid in. Playing things slowly and working them out musically is a good way for me to work out new ideas and attain some proficiency in areas that I need to improve on. The looping pedal is a great tool for practicing, at least for me.

Tell us about your bandmates:

Bill Ray: Drummer - Bill is without a doubt the most musical drummer I've ever had the pleasure of playing with.  Chops for days. Incomparable feel and technique.  There’s never been a rehearsal or something he’s recorded on the songs that I haven’t been blown away by.  There is a reason why Paul Gilbert uses 

Bill for his solo stuff. I encourage everyone to check out Bills website and learn more about him and all of the people he’s played with.

Jeff Eason: Bass - Jeff is a phenomenal player. He and I began working together while I was recording my last album. HIs contributions to both albums were immense. He plays with Larry Mitchell quite a bit and plays in a lot of other bands too. He’s in demand for sure. I encourage everyone to check out Jeff’s website to learn more about this.

Wayne Tapia: Guitar - Wayne is my partner in crime in the guitar sense. He’s incredibly well versed in different styles and really plays a critical role for the overall sound of ’The Alchemy’. For this project he’s playing mostly finger style which is very challenging, but he’s doing it incredibly well. I encourage everyone to check out Wayne’s website to learn more about him, as well

Tell us about your coproducer / mix & master engineer:

Working with ‘Big’ Chris Flores was the best experience I’ve had after everything has been recorded and it’s time to get the producers hat on - make the music interesting. I liken it to what a finished movie looks like after it gets filmed and then the real works starts in Post Production; Editing, VFX, Sound, Colorization, etc. By the time we watch the film it’s a far cry from the basic shots with the actors / actresses. The same can be said for song production. So having someone as musical and could get things worked / through quickly and in a very creative way was killer. Again, he’s worked with some of the best and there’s a reason for that. I’m just really glad he said ‘yes’ to working with me on this one. Added plus; he’s also a great human and I consider him a friend after working together. I hope everyone will check out his website and consider him for their next project if his schedule allows. Trust me, I was on a bit of budget with this album and we got it done ahead of schedule. He’s very respectful of time and budget.

Tell us about your guest musicians that appear on the new album

Two amazing guest musicians on the album!

Tony ’The Fretless Monster’ Franklin plays Bass on ‘Allegories and Guillotines'- Tony is an absolute legend within the halls of music. Having played with the likes of David Gilmour, Kate Bush, Jimmy Page, Carmine Alice, John Sykes, Kenny Wayne Sheppard and Lou Gramm for starters. He’s just brilliant and instantly recognizable in terms of sound and technique.

Micheal A. Levine - plays Violin on ‘Allegories and Guillotines’- Micheal’s resume includes having worked with Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson Williams and many other leading composers offering his unique style of Violin. He’s also an accomplished composer for film / TV and video games.

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