Any musician can pick up a guitar and strum a few basic chords along with their lyrics. It takes an entirely different class of skill to captivate a listener with instrumental acoustics alone. Tim Farrell is one such performer. A master of the fingerstyle school of acoustic guitar – which, resembling classical guitar, uses the fingers rather than a pick – Farrell’s music reflects a quality of craftsmanship surpassing what most highly-paid artists could produce on their best day. Yet all this is done with a seeming effortlessness that is as captivating as the fruits of his talent, as displayed on his acclaimed 2014 album, Cascadia.
It would hardly be an exaggerated comparison to liken his virtuoso style to that of a classical pianist. Like a composer who constructs and executes a flawless sonata, Farrell dexterously deals out streams of notes interspersed with resonant chord work. Part of what is so stunning about his technique is its speed. While it is hardly frenetic or hasty, notes follow one another in a quick and graceful manner that lacks no precision. Each new burst of sound comes along right on the heels of the previous notes, almost as if there were no separation between them. The outcome feels synesthetic, as though evoking the motion of a dancer or a river. Yet the response from the listener, paradoxically, is profoundly calm. Cascadia, despite not being slow-paced in the sense of rhythm, generates an unequivocally tranquil, balanced feeling. In some sense, it feels like the music itself is actually moving at a very relaxed speed, and additional notes have been added into the empty space to introduce deeper levels of musical complexity.
One could hardly recommend a solo musician more highly than Tim Farrell. The amount of skill that he injects into every song he writes is virtually unparalleled outside of the small community of elite fingerstyle virtuosos he represents. For anyone even remotely interested in examining this genre on the fringes of mainstream music, such a recent and emerging artist is an excellent place to begin.