Breaking Out

Steve Kaufman

Bluegrass Unlimited, Nov 90

Whiskey Before Breakfast/ Jerusalem Ridge/Tammy/Turkey In The Straw/Ken-tucky Waltz/Breaking Out/I Miss You Waltz/Temptation Rag/Faded Love/Medley: June Apple- Kitchen Girl/Green Leaves Of Summer/Medley: Soldier's Sorrow-Solder's Joy.

Guitarist Steve Kaufman is not in the same league as Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Dan Crary and Norman Blake when it comes to name recognition. When it comes to his play-ing, however, this young picker from eastern Tenneseee, is most definitely a big-league talent. Kaufman is a three-time-winner at the prestigious Winfield, Kansas, guitar contest end his new cassette, "Breaking Out," shows rather convincingly that fame is the only thing he lacks. The rest of the package-stuff like taste, tone, timing, speed, good ideas, flash and so on- Kauf-man has in quantities sufficient to drop the jaw of the most jaded fan of flatpicked guitar.

Aside from the sheer virtuosity of Kauf-man's picking, the two things most im-pressive about "Breaking Out" are Kaufman's quirky, unpredictable ar-rangements and his exceptionally strong sense of melody. Those captivating ar-rangements allow him to tackle such oft-recorded numbers as "Faded Love," "Whiskey Before Breakfast," "Jerusalem Ridge" and "Soldier's Joy" and actually bring new life and excitement to the tunes. His flawless picking on the faster tunes is nothing short of amazing, but his unerring melodic sense is perhaps most evident on slower tunes like "Tammy" (the Debbie Reynolds pop hit from 1957), "Green Leaves Of Summer," "I Miss You Waltz" and "Ken-tucky Waltz." Those cuts demonstrate that the ability to dazzle is not necessarily a func-tion of speed.

"Breaking Out" is truly a one-man show. Kaufman played the guitar(s) on each cut, overdubbed mandolin and bass on a few cuts, wrote "I Miss You Waltz" and the jazzy title tune, engineered and produced the recording, arranged the tunes and designed the cassette insert. He did an excellent job on all fronts. Steve Kaufman may not be a big star, but he's produced a recording that will delight and astound all fans of guitar music. Easily depressed guitarists might went to avoid "Breaking Out," but it’s highly recom-mended to everyone else. (Sleeping Bear Recordings, c/o Murlin's Music World, 429 West Broadway, Maryville, TN 37801) JHF

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: