Making my way through the most recent issue of the Fretboard Journal (FJ #45*), I came across sixteen splendid pages on fingerstyle guitarist Eric Skye. The photos of a beautiful twelve-fret 00-sized Santa Cruz guitar were sumptuous, and I was soon to learn that this was the company’s signature 00-Skye guitar. Likewise, the writing catches you right from the beginning, with a story — and quip — about using a wedding band as a slide. (“It’s why I got married, man!”)
Skye was new to me, but the Portland, Oregon-based acoustic guitarist certainly has a devoted following, and not just from Richard Hoover and the folks at Santa Cruz Guitars. He has a very broad minded approach to music, which he explains came in part from a classical guitar teacher who turned him on to blues and jazz as well. As his website notes, while often billed as an acoustic jazz guitarist,
“Skye actually occupies a unique niche between traditional acoustic music, modal jazz, folk, and blues. With a technical approach that is somewhat informed by studying classical guitar reluctantly in middle school, being obsessed with Jimmy Page, bluesy jazz guitarists like Kenny Burrell and Grant Green, as well as being exposed to the ‘California style’ of solo guitar playing from the Windham Hill label that was happening around him as a young person in the Bay Area. Later in life Skye became interested in Europe’s ECM label’s sound, with artist like Ralph Towner. And he is currently very interested in the ‘New Traditional’ music scene going on in New England today with young bluegrass players exploring a mix of folk and classical music with improvisational spirit. A lifetime of eclectic interests has led Eric Skye to have a fully realized and identifiable original style and sound.”
Skye’s videos are of a very high quality, thanks to the work of his videographer and friend Richard Newman, who makes the trip from Monterey, California, to Portland by car to capture Skye’s music. And thanks to their good work together, there’s much to sample online. Some jazz pieces, like Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man, find a new sound in Skye’s hands. The Skye original Blues for Freida, like all his tunes, blends wonderful technique and passion.
The Skye album A Different Kind Of Blue is a solo acoustic fingerstyle guitar re-imagining of the 1959 Miles Davis record Kind Of Blue. You can find Davis’s compositions So What and All Blues online to hear the result. This album reached the Top 10 in Acoustic Guitar‘s 2012 best records list and drew special acclamation from Davis’ estate and his son Erin.
Skye can also flatpick, as seen in his original reel Kathryn By The Delaware played here with Jamie Stillway. Check out their wonderful interplay beginning at the 2:25 mark. His take on the country blues classic Ode to Billie Joe has one of the funkiest grooves you’ll ever hear on a small-bodied acoustic guitar. He explains how he came to record the song in the FJ story:
“I loved the old video of Bobbie Gentry, the girl with the big hair and little guitar. Also it’s kind of modal, just a two-chord tune. You can certainly go down the rabbit hole.”
And while you’re watching and listening to these tunes (and searching for more), pay attention to the beautiful 00-Skye guitar, which Santa Cruz says is among their top-five most popular instruments.
The gorgeous Last Day of Summer has Skye playing his signature model, with pictures of the guitar in production interspersed throughout the video.
This is great music to put on your playlist where you can turn to it when you want a warm, beautiful sound to envelop and sustain you. Enjoy!
More to come…
*Also known as Guitar Porn magazine