One of this generation’s most accomplished and yet under-recognized acoustic guitarists is Christie Lenée. But the recognition part is changing. Last year, Guitar Player magazine featured her work, and they opened the article with the following observation: “Watching Christie Lenée perform her solo acoustic act is like seeing a firecracker execute a high-wire circus routine while doing flips and juggling flaming bowling pins.” Pretty impressive! Lenée was also recognized as the Acoustic Guitarist of the Year in 2019 by Music Radar Magazine in the UK, so her international reputation is growing as well.
I first heard Lenée in an abbreviated set in 2014, and her combination of technique, passion, and musicianship blew me away. Now some six years later, I continue to be amazed, and feature her music this week in Saturday Soundtrack.
Her website notes that she is “often described as ‘Michael Hedges meets Joni Mitchell and Dave Matthews,’ integrating melodic pop lyricism with catchy hooks and percussive, harmonic textures.” That’s a pretty good description, but it doesn’t really give one a sense of the range and symphonic nature of the sound coming from her guitar. To jump into that sound, here she is in a live 2016 show from Nashville playing Breath of Spring.
In this next musical collaboration, Lenée joins up with the incomparable Tommy Emmanuel to play Landslide, the Stevie Nicks song made famous by Fleetwood Mac. This 2017 version is live from the Songbirds Guitar Museum, in Chattanooga. By the fall of 2019, Lenée was opening for Emmanuel on a European tour. Landslide is followed by another 2017 video of Lenée performing the tune Dance of the Wolves.
Lenée mentioned in the Guitar Player interview that she played the same instrumental tune, Song for Michael Pukac, for her international guitar championship wins in 2017 and 2019. She called it her most versatile piece, as it tells a story through different themes and variations. Here’s a beautiful version of the tune.
Lenée’s guitar work is often compared to Michael Hedges, the trailblazing acoustic guitarist who pioneered percussive finger style guitar. If you want to go deep down this path, then I recommend this hour-long WoodSongs concert from 2020 where Lenée joins Andy McKee in a celebration of Hedges’ work. McKee’s solo work begins at the 8:45 mark and Lenée’s begins around the 19:00 mark. They trade off throughout the hour. At the 45 minute mark, Lenée picks up a “baby 12-string” and a hammer…and, well you should just watch!
Her website notes that during the pandemic, “Christie is currently working on a solo album in addition to collaborative tracks with artists such as Tommy Emmanuel, Phil Keaggy and Laurence Juber.” Pretty good company there! In July 2020 she was also featured on the Grammy Museum’s virtual program streaming from Los Angeles, along with the 4-page article in Guitar Player Magazine referenced above.
Possibilities is a new piece for 2020. I find it filled with joy and happiness, which we can all use in the middle of our global pandemic.
There is so much here to admire. Sit back and enjoy!
More to come…
Image of Christie Lenée (credit: Christie Lenée | Official Website)