Alex de Grassi's years as one of Windham Hill's signature artists made him an icon of finger-style guitar playing, both for his musicianship and compositions.

Alex de Grassi's years as one of Windham Hill's signature artists made him an icon of finger-style guitar playing, both for his musicianship and compositions. On Now and Then, he goes into his childhood music box to pull out folk songs from the early part of America's history. "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," "St. James Infirmary," and even "Shortnin' Bread" populate this CD like an old Burl Ives record—but de Grassi isn't Burl Ives. These chestnuts are launch pads for a deceptively complex and intricate instrumental recording. Just when you think it's going to be a skillful but rote run-through of songs you were sick of hearing as a child, de Grassi takes off in a new direction, where vintage Americana turns into Middle Eastern scales, reggae grooves, and minimalist meditations. De Grassi takes "Oh Susanna" to places she's never been before.—JD

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