He looks sympathetically down from the cover of his album A Thing Made Of Rags, the British guitar and lutes maker Steve Hicks, who on this album is active as guitar virtuoso. More exactly as Ragtime guitar player. As a subspecies of American jazz, the ragtime does not play a prominent role in the world of jazz, a finding that does not withhold Steve Hicks from bringing the second Ragtime album to the market. The special about the Ragtime done by acoustic guitar is the fingerstyle called playing technique, which differs from the usual plectrum-based percussion technique, having several strings mostly strung with the thumb, in that the strings of the guitar are hit or plucked individually with the pointing, middle and ring finger of the attack hand. This playing technique is derived from the alternating bass of the ragtime pianists, whose prominent forefather is none other than Scott Joplin, wherein the work of the pianist's left hand is taken from the thumb of the guitarist’s attack hand.
Currently the fingerstyle playing technique is again in some demand of guitarists, a matter of fact, that is reflected in a quite diverse international scene. Steve Hicks has dedicated himself to the guitar playing since the tender age of 13 years. Early on, he switched from the self-taught classic to the fingerstyle-influenced ragtime and country blues, led by Duck Baker. As a master of the fingerstyle, he performs successfully on the ragtime, swing, blues and celtic, but also on classical music events as a member of folk groups, guitar duos and ceilidh bands all over the UK. In workshops and masterclasses, he passes on his knowledge to the next generation. Finally, there is his instrument making, allowing Steve Hicks a deeper insight into the creation of sound of guitars and all sorts of exotic stringed instruments.
Steve Hicks is fingering and plucking through the American songbook that it is a sheer joy to listen. There are songs and pieces of music by Duke Ellington, Raymond Birch, Willie Smith, Rodgers & Hart, but also by Led Zeppelin and the classic color is brought into play by Johannes Brahms. It is a matter of honor, that also the forefather of the Ragtime, Scott Joplin has a say on this album. The arrangements prove to be tailor-made and demand total commitment of the guitarist. Virtuosity is for Steve Hicks at no point self-purpose, but a vehicle of clear presentation and, of course, buoyant interpretation. As sympathetic as Steve Hicks looks down from the cover, just as sympathetically, he conveys the virtues of the fingerstyle playing technique on this Rag dedicated album.
A Thing OF Rags is not deadly serious but a pleasure of the lighter kind, where the joy of music making is first and the guitarist also demonstrates the sense of self-irony. From this approach, the listener gets undisturbed pleasure in relaxed, entertaining listening, especially since Steve Hicks is a gifted guitar virtuoso who loves to make the rag swing effortlessly. The wonderful album "A Thing Made Of Rags", recorded and produced by the German acoustic music guru Peter Finger in Osnabrück, produces feel-good hormones when listening, a gift that is particularly welcome to the tense world situation.
Steve Hicks, acoustic guitar