Known to many as a new age artist because of his association with the Windham Hill label, Michael Hedges could be more accurately described as a progressive guitarist in the tradition of Leo Kottke or even Jimi Hendrix. Revered for his virtuoso playing and revolutionary approach to the instrument, Hedges became a cult hero to legions of acoustic guitar fanatics, despite his later, less-successful attempts at vocal music. His life and career cut short by a car accident in 1997, Hedges deserves to be remembered as one of the true guitar innovators of the 20th century.
Released in 1981, Breakfast in the Field was part of the thrilling, early ''80s rollout of "new acoustic" music unveiled by Windham Hill Records founder Will Ackerman, where each new release and new artist seemed to yield something revelatory. The startling uniqueness of guitarist Michael Hedges''s imagination and style, however, was not fully recognized until he introduced a host of tradition-jarring innovations (unexpected tunings, tappings, and rhythmic slaps) on the magnificent Aerial Boundaries three years later. Here, on just the 13th recording to carry the Windham Hill logo, the 28-year-old Hedges involves himself more with straightforward finger-picking technique--which is dazzling--and more of the peaceful, pastoral sound typically associated with early Windham Hill releases. On these terms, the disc (at a brief, vinyl-era 34 minutes) is a quiet, elegant jewel, adorned with endearing melodies ("Eleven Small Roaches," "The Unexpected Visitor"), astonishing displays of nimbleness ("Peg Leg Speed King," "Silent Anticipations"), and hints of quirkiness to come ("The Funky Avocado"). Bassist Michael Manring contributes to several tracks and even pianist George Winston, fresh off the release of Autumn and spurred by the team-spirit togetherness of early Windham Hill, lends a few notes to the reflective concluding track, "Lenono." --Terry Wood
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