If you haven’t heard Walter Strauss play, then you’ve never heard music like this before. This Californian guitarist’s songs are full of the groove and fire of a West African dance party, the dynamics and textures of a string orchestra, and the back-porch soul of American roots music. It’s out of this world music.
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Walter’s innovative guitar style layers on highly articulated melodies and harmonies, rhythms and counter-rhythms, giving the impression he is somehow playing several instruments at once. He blends his modern approach to the guitar with the ancient roots of global music traditions to create a truly singular style. Walter has transcribed music to guitar from the kora, the traditional 21-stringed harp of West Africa, creating mind-bending renditions of this music that famed kora player Toumani Diabate calls “inspirational”. And he integrates the tonal and rhythmic contours of instruments like the kamal’ngoni (a West African hunters harp) and the Indian sitar into his into his playing and compositions. His songs soulfully trace forgotten histories and life’s paradoxes in the 21st century, and his guitar interpretations of far-flung global music are showstoppers.
Walter has earned the admiration of UK luminaries like Martin Simpson and 'Whispering Bob' Harris, who call him “a fine player with a voice of his own in the world” and “a master guitar player”. He has performed both solo and in collaborations throughout the US, UK, Ireland, and Canada, and in northern Europe and Mali, West Africa – at major venues and festivals like Kennedy Center, Celtic Connections, and Le Diplomat in Bamako, Mali. His collaborations have spanned an impressive range of genres, from a duo with Grammy-nominated Malian kora player Sidiki Diabaté to American guitar maestro Alex de Grassi and Americana songsters The Burns Sisters.
“Glorious… master guitar playing" – Bob Harris BBC 2
"A many-layered, multi-textured, one-man folk festival" – Maverick Magazine
"The man is class" – fRoots Magazine
"Fantastic musician" – Iain Anderson BBC Scotland
"A class act" – Mary Ann Kennedy BBC3 and BBC Scotland
Reviews of last release in the UK - Planet Solitaire (2011):
"HOW has this innovative guitarist stayed off the radar for so long? Technically, stylistically and most important of all, passionately he is up there with the greats..." – Taplas Magazine (Wales)
"Walter Strauss kicks global arse
... encompasses Western classical and jazz-values, plus rootsy African and Americana with bewildering aplomb."– Allgigs.co.uk
"...a glimpse into the ear-bending possibiliities of bringing the harp-like phrasing and polyrhythms of West African kora music to the steel-string acoustic guitar. Strauss is a spirited player and a strong vocalist." Guitarist Magazine, 4 stars
"If you haven't encountered Strauss's guitar take on kora music, this is a great place to start. He brings his incendiary technique to George Harrison and even Woody Guthrie songs as well, and his own stuff is left-field and good, too." – fRoots Magazine
"...[Planet Solitaire] delicately stuns with its breathtaking solo virtuosity... and enchants with its supple imagery." – Folk and Roots / Netrhythms