WVA Occasional, 12/94
Say "Steve Kaufman" and immediate images come to mind - the man with the red hot guitar who can play circles around just about any other guitarist in the universe. And he has. He’s the only 3-time winner of the coveted National Flat-Pick Guitar Championship title. On Arkansas Traveler, Kaufman’s guitar is fluid, flawless and frantic at times and as mellow as warm butter at other times. How any one set of five fingers and a flat-pick can get this much music out of one guitar is mind-boggling.
So this, Kaufman’s seventh release to the world of guitar music, simply adds credence to his already outstanding reputation.
There are whole groups of standard guitar pieces played without a single mistake. Of course the title cut, "Arkansas Traveler," transports you at once mentally to the contest stage at Winfield as you hear platoons of aspiring guitarists frantically picking. The difference is that here Kaufman doesn’t allow a single misplayed note. And so goes the entire album.
Kaufman’s arrangements are an unusual treat. A tune like "Edelweiss" works itself slowly into the familiar pattern but not before Kaufman has fun with it. The same is true with "Amazing Grace."
On a couple of cuts, the bluesy "You Took Advantage of Me," and "Shoo Fly Pie," Michele Voan adds her wonderful vocal talent. Kaufman does a vocal as well on "That’s What I Like About the South." these break up the otherwise all instrumental recording. Equally splendid is the exquisite mix of other instrumentation that Kaufman himself does with mandolin, etc. (Isn’t the magic of the studio wonderful?)
Any fan of guitar music would be amiss to not get this album. With this latest Kaufman production playing on your stereo, you’ll have to agree that he’s one of the best guitarists playing today.
Sleeping Bear Recordings, P.O. Box 1020, Alcoa, TN 37701