reviewed by Bill Meyer
for still-single.tumblr.com, 2015
John Hasbrouck mostly plays in Chicago-based combos that revive bluegrass, hot jazz, and old-time country. In his two most visible bands, The Northside Southpaws and The Pilsen Hot Five, he doesn’t even play guitar, sticking to conventional and resonator mandolins. But he is no newcomer to solo acoustic guitar. He also has a CD from 2001 available at cdbaby.com that includes a few tips of the hat to John Fahey. Dream Lucky is Hasbrouck’s first vinyl release, and his first solo record in ten years. He has a thing for brevity; the eleven pieces on this ten-inch, 33 RPM record add up to less than 20 minutes of music. Alongside brevity comes an estimable clarity; each tune sets a mood, expresses a melody, and says goodbye. This is not your post-Basho lunge towards the unbounded beyond, but a cogent expression of well-formed ideas. The content ranges from lazy blues and rustic reveries to tiny, jewel-like arrangements of a handful of suspended harmonics. The recording, which was accomplished half at home and half at Electrical Audio, does an excellent job of capturing and transmitting the resonance of Hasbrouck’s instrument. Hefty, nicely cut black vinyl (500 pressed, includes a download code) finishes the job.
Some These Days
reviewed by GUITAR NINE, 2002
John began playing rock 'n' roll guitar in 1975 and enrolled in the Music Department of Northern Illinois University in 1979. Being housed in a music-only dormitory exposed him to a wide variety of musical styles and perspectives — one of the principle eye-opening experiences of his musical life. In 1981, John immersed himself in the art of the fingerstyle guitar, and later he toured over 100,000 miles with a popular reggae/ska band. He has studied with world-class players at the American Fingerstyle Guitar Festival, mentored with songster Catfish Stephenson, played innumerable cafes and clubs in Chicago, and in 2001, recorded his debut album, Ice Cream. John's first CD achieved national recognition, cited by Acoustic Guitar magazine as one of the "Top CDs of 2002".
In addition to his work as a performer and recording artist, Hasbrouck maintains a busy schedule teaching fingerstyle guitar. He teaches privately in Chicago, and is on staff at The Old Town School of Folk Music and The World Folk Music Company.
Some These Days
reviewed by Fred Kraus
John Hasbrouck is welcome in my home anytime. His comfortable style and fascinating musings on fingerstyle and bottleneck guitar make for fine, thoughtful company. His nicely varied, seventeen track collection offers a virtual field trip into the past world of American roots music. Hasbrouck absorbs the genre like a 55-gallon drum catching the rain. He then breathes new life into some traditional tunes such as "False Hearted Lover’s Blues" and gems like A.P Carter’s "Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow". While he remains true to the spirit of the originals, Hasbrouck injects his own indomitable spirit as well, to good ends. He’s at his best with his own compositions, which, like "To My Amazement, Still" and "Granny’s Homemade Horseradish" are played from the heart. His next-door-neighbor voice lends a homemade-biscuit authenticity. Hasbrouck’s liner notes reveal a gentle humor and fascination with life, history and family. Born in Chicago, he’s a visual artist as well. And the man’s got a guitar collection to die for.
reviewed by GvonT
for Sing Out! Spring, 2003
Extremely versatile finger-style and bottleneck guitarist, Chicago-based John Hasbrouck's first album was more than 25 years in the making, but definitely worth the wait. Composed of eight vivid originals and a dozen well-chosen covers, Hasbrouck's fret-board virtuosity is readily apparent, His highly personal, clear-toned style borrows from and blends Delta country blues and ragtime and the more modern folk sensibilities of John Fahey, Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges (emphasis on Fahey) and strains of reggae/ska, rock and country. All played on nine various six- and twelve-string instruments—a 1931 National Duolian resonator guitar, a vintage Martin D76L and the Tommyhawk, a miniature travel guitar, among them.
Hasbrouck's musical palette is wide. Anchored by a sprinkled series of Fahey/Blind Joe Death instrumentals (All Those Wasted Years, Fragment from an Unfinished Requiem,) he also offers a space-filled, weeping version of Hank Williams' I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. There's some delightfully glimpsing lowdown blues (Harry Smith Lays Down), English folk (John Renbourn's floating Lady Nothing's Toye Puffe) and the doleful, sanctified stresses of both the extended Behold! Rows of Zebras Miraculously Announce Nirvana and a too brief Kerouac Alone in Des Moines, 1947. Great titles.
A mesmerizing, easy-going vocal style also appeals, working particularly well on roots classics like John Hardy, Willy The Chimney Sweeper (a slum version of Baudelaire's Les Paradis Artificiels) and an up-tempo, raggy take on The House the Risin' Sun. I've Been Drinking' All Night Long, by one-time Hasbrouck sidewalk busking mate Catfish Stephenson also really catches fire, along with clever arrangements of a pair of Hasbrouck's father's favorites that showcase a well-honed pop/jazz sensibility as well. Both Cry Me a River and As Time Goes By positively shimmer.
A triple-scoop treat of a debut.
reviewed by Bob Tilling
for Blues In Britain, 2002
Ice Cream is the first solo outing for Chicago-based John Hasbrouck and I am sure that he is pleased with the outcome. There are twenty, mostly instrumental, tracks including eight original compositions played on enough instruments to open guitar store! The twenty titles really illustrate his wide and varied interest in acoustic guitar techniques and styles. He appears equally at home playing traditional blues such as Keep It Clean, jazz pieces such as Lady Be Good or country songs like I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. His will to experiment and stretch himself, and in particular, some of his slide work has a individual flavor.
I very much enjoyed his sense of humor and his interesting choice of material although I did think some of the titles were a little too short. Having said that his longest title I've Been Drinking' All Night Long, an instrumental played on a beautifully toned metal guitar, has a very nice touch. All in all this is a very enjoyable set and I hope that on his next release he will include more vocals.