RON FRANKLIN: Mysterious Deep
Since the time of the Beatles, the guitar has become the choice instrument for the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Zers, and all the other Gens in between or thereafter. From Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to St. Vincent and Josh Turner, the guitar has been constantly reconsidered and reimagined and enjoyed an unusually long heyday of more than two generations.
It’s easy to understand the guitar’s popularity. They are portable, for the most part affordable, and most times you can plug them into something and make them really loud. Beginner students can wind up strumming along with their favorite songs soon after their first lesson. Music stores dot the landscape, but it’s the Guitar Centers that are the megamonolythic superstores. Humans have lived through the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and the Space Age. And we may now be in the midst of the Guitar Age. As future archaeologists dig through the detritus of the 21st century, they will find it to be filled with fingerboards, picks, and tons and tons of Marshall amps.
With this popularity there has arisen a genre of music, one that I’ll call popular acoustic guitar music. It is distinguished from classical guitar music by a more stationary left hand technique, alternate tunings, and use of steel strings, as opposed to nylon or gut. The music also tends to be more idiosyncratic to the guitar itself. Classical guitar compositions often wind up transcribed for piano, popular acoustic guitar music not so much.
Guitarist Ron Franklin has recorded and released Mysterious Deep, a collection of 13 popular acoustic guitar compositions. The recording is a pleasure and a welcome addition to this cannon of guitar music.
Smartly, the compositions are in several different tunings and performed on several different guitars, giving the disk sonic variety. (I’ve listened to some guitar disks in which all the compositions are performed in one tuning, DADGAD, which gives the tunes a sonic sameness.) The disk is finely recorded.
A music instructor at San Diego College of Continuing Education with a master’s degree in guitar performance from Texas Tech University, Franklin offers his listeners meditative reveries, as he does with the title tune, and toe tappers like “Summer Solstice.” Franklin even plugs in for an electric number “Surf Factory,” which will have you wanting to grab your board and catch a wave.