Ear Candy

Todd Hallawell, National Fingerpicking Guitar Champion (Winfield), plays his winning entries and much more!

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Other recordings by Todd Hallawell:




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Autographed CD
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Purchase Tracks Individually

1. Vinton’s Hornpipe

2. Russian Rag

3. Hoodoo Hoedown

4. Eleanor

5. Campground Medley

6. Dizzy Fingers

7. Davey Jones Hornpipe

8. The Third Eyebrow

9. Sidh Beag Sidh Mor

10. Harvest Home

11. Maple Leaf Rag

12. Turkey Knob

13. Elzic’s Farewell

Liner Notes

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A Note from Dan Crary:

Some days start well. After a crashed computer, downloads that didn’t (download), and deadlines that did (go dead) today started nicely with the music of Ear Candy finally arriving and sweetening up the summer morning with some beautiful stuff.  Mind you, I had my doubts; I always have doubts about yet another steel-string guitar instrumental project, especially my own, as to whether it will have enough freshness, originality, virtuosity, dynamics, taste, and a little familiarity, to add up to something people will enjoy, return to, recommend, and also purchase.  But happily with this project, the answer is yes, yes, yes, and yes again.

Todd and Robin are pals and collaborators who obviously have made it to the same page musically… they weave in and out of each others musical space with expertise and grace.  The beautiful music they make has all the qualities I listed above. But in addition, the project itself hangs together: it starts nice and pretty and goes to great and powerful, and you want to go along with it. I especially liked Dizzy Fingers, Davey Jones, and Third Eyebrow, all hot with virtuosity and warped with beautiful irony.  And then it takes you to sweet and melodic, but then moves to a surprise: an arrangement of Turkey Knob that you actually love, and you don’t want to end.

Todd and Robin are, of course, well-known as award-winners and giants in the acoustic guitar world, but Todd the fingerpicking giant here has taken up the flatpick for this project, and he enters that extremely small world of artists who are great at both.  And Robin here plays at the top of his monumental game, better than ever, full of power and authority and originality.  But the biggest feat of all, the one you chase for a lifetime, the most elusive goal, is to make a collection of recorded tunes that will last, because people will return to them with joy.  When that happens, it’s beautiful, as you are about to find out.

– Dan Crary


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“Ear Candy” Review by Stephen Rekas, Mel Bay Publications

“Listening to the Todd Hallawell & Robin Kessinger acoustic guitar CD collaboration is nothing but pure musical pleasure; in fact, the overall effect exactly matches the CD’s title, Ear Candy.

I first met Todd at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) Convention, an annual event in Nashville celebrating Chet’s fingerstyle technique but open to the best the guitar world has to offer in any style, including straight-ahead jazz, Gypsy jazz, classic guitar, occasional rock and blues, and even flatpicking. The convention assembles a brother and sisterhood of guitarists from throughout the world, authentically reflecting Chet’s own eclectic tastes in music.

Through the CAAS convention, I came to know Todd primarily as a fingerstyle guitarist, and was frankly incredulous to learn that, on Ear Candy, he exclusively uses a flatpick. I can assure you that, not only does he hold his own with legendary flatpicker, Robin Kessinger, but when the two trade bars in a solo/backup context in “Davy Jones Hornpipe,” I couldn’t tell them apart. The end product is greater than the sum of its parts, a totally balanced musical collaboration where music making is the focus. Rather than being subjected to an ego-driven technique contest or radical stylistic contrast, the listener is treated to a blend of supreme guitar arranging skills and spontaneous flatpicking combustion.

With a lifetime of playing and listening to our favorite plucked instrument, I actually prefer a mixed ensemble to an all-guitar lineup in any style. I hunger for different timbres and an expanded range of sound. Ear Candy has deftly sidestepped this line of criticism by adding upright bassist Duane Webster to the mix on every track, so the mid-range guitars are tastefully complemented with the low, low end. A small CD player speaker won’t do this album justice; listen to it with a quality pair of speakers, headphones or earbuds. That way, you’ll better appreciate how Webster is right there with Kessinger and Hallawell through every key modulation and shift from moderate to fast to manic tempo.

I’ve always prided myself on having diverse tastes in music. For example, in 1973 I heard Segovia and Muddy Waters on the same snowy day in Chicago. Then while journeying from St. Louis to Barcelona, I stopped-over in New York City and took in some intimate jazz, blues and classical performances. The air in the city was charged with a mix of car exhaust and ice particles, but the clubs were warm and cozy. After a Sam and the Shams Revue performance, a friend commented that the band had played with a good “range of emotion.”

Over the years, that insightful critique has stuck with me, and I am reminded of it by the selection of tunes on Ear Candy. The playlist displays an outstanding range of emotion with old and new, well-known and lesser known, challenging up-tempo tunes, and ballads that tug at the heart. While there are no weak tracks on this CD, I particularly like the lead-off tune, “Vinton’s Hornpipe” plus “Eleanor,” O’Carolan’s “Sidh Beag, Sidh Mor, George L. Cobb’s “Russian Rag,” and the “Campground Medley”- this last perhaps inspired by the late-night jams at bluegrass gatherings like The Walnut Valley Festival, a.k.a. “Winfield,” where both players are past champions in their respective fingerstyle and flatpicking fields.

Frederick Chopin reputably said, “Nothing is more beautiful than the guitar, save perhaps two.” That is certainly the case with this album. If this were a classical review, I’d be using terms like tour de force and joie de vivre to describe this CD and the energizing effect Hallawell and Kessinger have on each other. In fact, a strong case could be made in identifying Hallawell as a classically-trained guitarist and composer, but nah- I won’t go there. It’s Ear Candy, pure and simple.

If you are drawn to the acoustic guitar in any of its manifestations, you’ll enjoy Ear Candy. What can I say but buy this CD! Then, when you meet Todd Hallawell and Robin Kessinger at one of their concerts or workshops, have them autograph your copy and promise a second volume.”

– Stephen Rekas, Mel Bay Publications

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