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Nina Gerber

NOT BEFORE NOON (Goatscape) • Nina Gerber

First of all, Nina Gerber is a badass guitar player.

Musta been the eighties when first I met her. I was managing sales at Mesa/Boogie, the Northern CA amp company. Nina had a Boogie and lived nearby, she'd come in to have it worked on once in a while. I had a couple of smart sales guys under me at the time. I'd insist they discretely get into earshot of Nina while she checked out some amps, demonstrated her amp's condition or assessed its repair. After they did, there was no need to banish the phrase or the mentality of a guitarist being "good for a girl," because she could kick any of our asses on the guitar, simple as that. And she was as sweet as she was good, so all you could do was shake your head and smile, go home and practice.

In the many years since, Nina's played with so many good people. She first became known as the guitarist for Kate Wolf, whose albums will stand for many years after her untimely passing as folk classics. I wish I knew that long list of people. (When I bumped into her in Nashville about a dozen years ago, she was playing with Michelle Shocked.) But Nina's such a consummate musician and so understated a person that her bio says more about the great players that jumped to join her on this record than it does about her own resume. So I'll follow her lead, and talk about her interaction with them on a superb batch of tunes from decades and a world of experiences.

Stellar vocalists cameo on about half the tunes: Herb Pederson, Kim Scanlon, Vicki Randle, Chris Webster, Terry Garthwaite (what a pleasure), Lucy Kaplansky, and big daddy Greg Brown on his incredible song for Nina, "Kate's Guitar." On "Riff Raff," a cappella ensemble Da We Be's play the band and let Nina's guitar be the singer. It's great to hear the fantastic rhythm section of Billy Lee Lewis on drums and Benny Rietveld on bass, brings back a lot of Bay Area memories. Joe Craven (who pops up in our Garcia/Grisman review this issue) tracks on fiddle case, mouth hat, lava lamp and other percussion. Cary Black contributes a couple of beautiful upright bass tracks, and Barbara Higbie adds the only piano on Abbey Lincoln's "Learning How to Listen."

Young players think that the essential part of a musician is their hands. As you grow up, you find it's their ears. Nina's love of song is omnipresent in her choice of great material and in every passing moment of this lovely record, notably in her outstanding read of Clive Gregson's "It's All Just Talk." This is a must have for all fans of great guitar music. • FG

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