Eclectic tuneful variety with an affable character that fits like an old shoe
Playing Time – 51:55 -- Twelve years in the making (1995-2007), Pacific Northwest guitarist and singer George Chudacoff shows not only patience but also an affinity for many styles of music built around Celtic, old-time, and folk foundations. After opening with a showy and difficult contest tune (Limerock), George and a friend or two or three give us unpretentious, lean arrangements of an eclectic tuneful variety. Songs are drawn from O’Carolan (O’Carolan’s Draught, Planxty George Brabazon, Planty Irwin), as well as some learned from Pete Seeger (Livin’ in the Country), Pentangle (The Trees They Do Grow High), Delmore Brothers (Put Me on the Trail to Carolina), Larry Hanks (That’s Alright), and traditional sources (Cluck Old Hen, Temperance Reel, The Right of Man). I enjoyed hearing his own self-penned harmony line in O’Carolan‘s Draught, and George humbly shares guitar breaks or vocals with others to tip his hat to friends.
With an affable character that fits like an old shoe, Chudacoff’s set also features a couple originals (Sailin’, Quiet) that he wrote with Mauri Farrell decades ago (before Farrell’s passing). Both songs, recorded as a duo with Jim Britton on harmony guitar, have an alluring quality that reminds me of coffeehouse gigs during the 1960s folk revival. While thirteen others assisted on the album, George’s spare presentations always keep his proficient guitar and/or pleasant baritone front and center. Then there’s also his spirited clawhammer banjo on “Cluck Old Hen.” Recorded early in the process of making this album, two tracks (Limerock, Tom Dooley) include electric bassist Joe Gurr, another of George’s friends who has passed on. Back in 1973-74, Chudacoff and Gurr were part of a trio (with Tempe McGlaughlin) called Octobre Wood. Besides friends and fellow teachers, George also invited some of his students (Mary Rondthaler, Kathy Buttrell) to record with him on numbers like O’Carolan’s Draught, The Tree They Grow High, and Put Me on the Trail to Georgia. Wayne Henderson, who picks on a few of the tracks, built guitars, mandolins, and a fiddle that appear in the warm set of subtlety and skill. Another from Appalachia, Helen White fiddles “The Rights of Man.” While George’s liner notes offer a few comments about most of the assisting musicians, it was obviously an oversight to acknowledge two participants -- autoharper/vocalist Meryle Korn, and electric bassist Jon Lindahl.
George Chudacoff is clearly a musician with a lot of passion for music and commitment to his art. His many students and collaborators speak highly of him. Admitting that “life and music are not goals but never-ending processes of wonderment that are and will always be truly unfinished business,” George has successfully managed to give us a taste of his music and friends throughout the decades. “Unfinished Business” is a natural sort of album that doesn’t strive to make a musical statement for completeness or finality. Diagnosed with advanced esophogeal cancer, George refers to himself as a “future cancer survivor.” He’s got a tough battle ahead, and his business at hand is to put the cancer into remission so that he can allow his music to flourish. (Joe Ross)