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Listening Hands

Following his 1999 debut Triple Heater, Canadian guitarist (and National Flatpicking Championship finalist) Martin Posen returns with his sophomore outing Listening Hands. As before, he explores many of the lesser-known altered guitar tunings, while utilizing a variety of percussive techniques and harmonics. In the spectrum of acoustic steel-string instrumental guitar music running from John Fahey to Michael Hedges, Posen falls more toward the latter end of the spectrum while finding his own voice. "Django Townshend" sounds like Peter Townshend exploring jazz (as its name implies), while "Wind Flowers" offers a slower, beautiful fingerpicked arrangement. Posen's listening hands create lots of musical interest for feeling ears.

- Minor7th.com

One of the finest acoustic guitar albums I've heard in a while is Listening Hands, by Martin Posen. The burst of energy that caromed out of the speakers when it started to play has the sort of energy and lyrical invention that Michael Hedges or Leo Kottke would spring on an audience; then there are flashes when he calls to mind Alex de Grassi or Pierre Bensusan. After that initial rush, he settles into some quieter moments, but he is always working both hands up and down the fretboard, monkeying with the tuning, adjusting the pitch, and creating his own harmonies by hammering the strings with the left hand while picking and strumming with the right, or maybe sometimes picking with the left as well. There are times when a melody is ringing in the air and a second melody seems to be creeping up on it from the background, almost like a little reverb unit squeezing out additional tunes from the memory bank. He apparently does, as the title of his album says, listen to the world and then reflect the sound back through his six strings.


I was happy to receive a copy of Listening Hands to see what this accomplished practitioner of fingerstyle guitar was up to. The answer is plenty. Listening Hands is actually a deceptively good album. Sparsely recorded acoustic guitar instrumentals are the order of the day and while, to some rock-only listeners, that may seem a little less than exciting, I'd urge them to check it out. What I found was that, before I knew it, I'd played it at least once a day for two straight weeks. Check out Posen's deft work on tracks like the engaging opener, "Sans Souci", "South Portage Lake Road" which follows, or the extended exploration of "3 Portals, 3 Keys". Similar to the late, great Michael Hedges, Martin has the ability to give the acoustic far more fire power than a large percentage of electric players could ever dream of. Moreover, the thing that has kept this disc in my player the most is not his shredding skill, but his penchant for coming up with melodies, lines and phrases that are distinctly memorable. A super-cool CD that should appeal not only to fans of this particular style, or even guitar lovers only, but any open-minded listener.

- Chaos Realm

Martin Posen's music is lusciously adorned with rich steel-string acoustic guitar compositions very much in line with the music of Michael Hedges or Alex de Grassi. Listening Hands alternates its energy from track to track, going between fluidly, ethereal fingerpicking as in cut 2, "South Portage Lake Road", and the more powerfully, concrete strumming and lead playing of track 1, "Sans Souci". Each song takes a journey with explorations into melodic storylines told only through the grace and finesse of this gifted musician's hands and mind.

Minus bass, drums, keyboards, percussion and other electric instruments, this music is bare bones in a production of simplicity, yet each measure emotes passion, bringing to light the meaning of each sonic passage. "Django Townshend", track 9, warps time and space, placing on stage an unlikely union of musicians (Hot Club jazz guitarist of the 30s, Django Reinhardt, morphed together with 60s classic rocker Pete Townshend). This makes for a heck of an interesting guitar song, and is a bit of a microcosm for the rest of this diverse CD.

On Listening Hands, Martin Posen travels to beautiful acoustic spaces, exploring the world, people and situations with the touch of his hands and an acoustic guitar. He hears and sees the world through his instrument, and through it, we understand his vision.

- West Coast Performer Magazine

. . . One of the great things about Martin's playing is the ability to make you forget that he plays in open tunings (as do great players, such as Pierre Bensusan and Don Ross) by not focussing on tunings, but rather on the music's distinct melodies. With Listening Hands Martin has created a very versatile album that will absorb you from the beginning to the end with his superb compositions, which have good structure, melody and balance, and are combined with Martin's very intimate, reflective way of playing.

(to read the complete review, visit: www.xs4all.nl/~guitars/index.html)
This website contains reviews of CDs, and is a gateway to various acoustic guitar-related subjects.

- Bridge Guitar Reviews

Triple Heater

Toronto acoustic guitar soloist Martin Posen has exposed his eloquent guitar playing with this stunning debut of Triple Heater. Along with session bassist George Koller and percussionist extraordinaire Rick Lazar, we witness the incredible guitar work of Martin Posen as he easily flows from a wide range of styles. With 10 original guitar instrumentals — nine acoustic and one electric — one cannot help but try to begin to understand how he manages to play the guitar in a way that is so strongly original. From hot fingerpicking, to flatpicking, his percussive techniques on the guitar are brilliant. With a diverse palette, you will eventually hear some influences including Doc Watson and Michael Hedges, but all in all Martin Posen is one of a kind. A great debut — don't miss out!

- Tandem Corriere Canadese

This Canadian guitarist's debut recording owes much to Michael Hedges, more in influence than performance style. Posen's playing is uncluttered, and his tone is sweet and melodic with ringing, sustained notes. He wrote all 10 selections, and is joined by bass and percussion on three of the tracks. Its a nicely recorded collection of easy listening guitar pieces.

- Dirty Linen

Triple Heater is Martin Posen's debut CD, a remarkable collection of fretboard gems composed and performed by this incredibly gifted Toronto-based acoustic guitarist. Posen began his journey 20 years ago, when he placed in the top 10 at the National Flatpicking Championships in Winfield, Kansas. He spent the ensuing years developing his unique style, utilizing fingerpicking and flatpicking, and playing in a diverse assortment of bands playing rock, folk, country, bluegrass and jazz.

"The main thing is to translate the feeling into music — transducing one type of energy into another kind of energy," says Posen of his approach to his instrument. Sending his CD to folk and New Age radio stations, he was pleasantly surprised by the response to the album. "I decided I'll just put it out to the Universe and see what happens, with no expectations at all. And it was beyond my dreams that people were that interested in it."

Considering he counts among his influences Michael Hedges, Doc Watson, David Bromberg, Django Reinhardt, Clarence White and mandolin/fiddle player Sam Bush, it should come as no surprise to hear the eclectic mix of styles represented on Triple Heater. From the title track's dizzying display of dexterity and harmonics, to the Celtic-tinged "Son of Finlay", and encompassing the beautifully lilting "Jewelled Lights" and the dreamy tranquility of "Spinal Chords" — the only cut featuring Posen on electric guitar — the CD invites you into the sonic world of this original and compelling instrumentalist. A uniquely talented musician to keep an eye on.

- Canadian Musician

Fans of guitar virtuoso playing will enjoy this release by Martin Posen. Influenced and encouraged by Michael Hedges, Martin has developed a unique style of "hot fingerpicking, flatpicking and percussive techniques" that will impress the listener. Unlike many flashy players, style, substance and dynamics are all important ingredients not to be ignored by Martin. Most of the selections are solo recordings, with a few involving a bassist and percussionist. Written entirely by Martin, the melodies are simple yet elaborately woven into the arrangements.


Underproduced music such as this is hard to describe. You'd think the simpler the music, the fewer the words necessary to capture it. Not so. Canadian guitarist Martin Posen performs 10 tracks here, a grand total of 41:40 of breathtakingly lovely acoustic music. The sleeve notes credit a bassist and percussionist, but I'm hard-pressed to identify their contributions. Their playing is unobtrusive to say the least; for all intents and purposes this is a solo album.

Posen plays energetically, yet his music remains beautiful. Using both rhythmic and melodic colors, Posen weaves a landscape here that is absolutely hypnotic. There are no familiar or catchy melodies, and his music is all the richer for it. On one track ("Spinal Chords" — a title many guitarists will wish they had thought of), Posen works solo with electric guitar and generates nearly five minutes of sheer magic, veering closer to jazz — or at least jazz chords — than on anything else here.

Don Ross, a hero to many guitar players, has contributed the following words to the sleeve of Posen's album: "What you hold in your hands is a thing of rare beauty. Brace yourself: Martin's soul dance will leave you dizzy." Contrary to my first impression, this isn't hype. It suggests, as I have already concluded, that sometimes it is easier to write about your reaction to music than the music itself.

- Goldmine

As a guitarist, I can tell you that there's still nothing better than sitting down with a good acoustic guitar, lowering your head close to the sound hole and playing for hours on end. What you hear is the gorgeous richness of tone, ranges and attack in the acoustic guitar that exceeds all the pyrotechnics of its electric cousin.

Not since I first heard Michael Hedges back in 1986, have I heard such articulate and full-bodied guitar playing as here on Martin Posen's Triple Heater. All the sheer subtlety and woody depth of fully strummed chords exude in this superior recording so exceptionally, it's as if your ear were next to that old sound hole. Skillful flatpicking and fingerpicking, punctuated with the occasional muscular strum of chords, are all in the arsenal of Posen's impressive technique. There are beautiful ballads, Celtic-style flavourings and, just for good measure, a tasteful and humorously warped electric guitar piece, entitled "Spinal Chords".

Not only is he an excellent and talented player, Posen has a fine musical ear and sense of composition. While one can learn technique, musicality is an inherent talent that's either there or not. It's clearly here on Triple Heater. Not to be missed!

- Eye for the Future