Album: Time and Again
Artist: Bob Kilgore

 cover170x170Time and Again by Bob Kilgore is one of the most unique and intriguing albums I’ve written about in a while. That’s partly because of the music itself, but also the instrument it was created and played on. In addition to accompaniment on cello and keyboards, Bob’s primary instrument is… a guitar. But that is only part of the picture. What makes his ordinary guitar so different is a device he invented and markets called the Harmonic Capo. Simply put, this unassuming invention straps around the guitar’s neck like an ordinary capo but is specially designed to allow chiming crystalline harmonic notes on any fret. Combine that with Bob’s impressive dexterity and playing technique, unusual open tunings, and flair for intricate passages and odd time signatures, and you’ve got the ingredients that make this album so “noteworthy.”

Harmonic capoFor Bob, the Harmonic Capo is more than just a tool he uses to create his distinctive music. In our interview he shared: “I want people to know about the Harmonic Capo. Not so much so I can sell more of them, but because it will be the closest thing to a musical legacy that I could hope to pass on. I don’t expect to turn on the radio one day and hear someone copying some “signature riff” of mine, but I sure would love to know that other players are using my invention and will continue to do so after I’m gone.” Given the intricacy of Bob’s music, I doubt there will be a plethora of people copping his riffs.


In discussing his creative process, Bob went on to explain: “Musical inspiration is an organic, tactile thing for me. I could not compose without an instrument in my hands. I need to feel the vibration and follow where it leads me. I don’t mean that in any kind of mystical sense, only that it is more of an emotional process than a cerebral one. It is probably why, unlike most other guitarists, I don’t suffer from a compulsion to acquire dozens of guitars. For me, the character of an instrument is so bound up with the compositions created on it, it seems wrong to play the tunes on any instrument other than the one it was composed on. It’s difficult to explain that one.” This last idea provided an interesting perspective for me, as someone who owns 10 guitars, and I found it thought provoking to consider.


Bob Kilgore in a TEDx performance

Bob Kilgore in a TEDx performance

One of the first things that music consumers (and marketers) want to know about an album is what style or genre is it in. In this case, the answer is not that straightforward. While it may inevitably fall under the excessively inclusive umbrella of new age music, Bob has other thoughts: “I don’t know if I fit well in any one genre. I know people will say that it’s ‘new age,’ but I’ve never liked that label. It carries so much metaphysical baggage that has nothing to do with the music. A few of my tunes are definitely what Michael Hedges used to  call “Thrash Acoustic”. I grew up listening to a lot of European fusion. All of it affected me, and everything I compose filters through it.” So while it may be hard to classify, it is easy to like, and I have a feeling that fans of Michael Hedges’ guitar acrobatics will love it.


According to Bob, “If the album has any kind of unifying concept, it might be the notion of revisiting older musical ideas and taking them in new directions. While most of the tunes on Time and Again couldn’t be called “recycled oldies”, a few certainly are.” The opening track, “IDIBITS,” (a humorous acronym for “I did it better in the studio”) goes way back and has in interesting story which Bob shared in our interview: “’IDIBITS’ itself has undergone major changes since its composition in 1990. The tune was composed the day after I met Michael Hedges. A few months earlier I had sent Michael a cassette tape of some of my tunes. He called me and we arranged a meeting after a show he did in Baltimore. I spent about an hour with him at his hotel and showed him a very early prototype of the Harmonic Capo. He was the first other guitarist to see my invention and he encouraged me to market the idea. I only met him once, but he left a lasting impression on me and on my music.”


The song opens with a gentle semi-classical sounding intro, after which Bob launches into a dynamic first movement accented by forceful notes on the low strings over a repeating arpeggiated chord sequence that provides a strong sense of forward motion. Also joining Bob is his brother Bear on keyboards supporting the song with synthesizer textures and bell sounds. Bear plays on all the tracks with the exception of two solo guitar pieces. Another instrumental voice, that of cellist Sarah Dean, is heard on the next song, the title track, which in Bob’s words: “…was born when an older tune decided that it wasn’t finished with me.” This song has a mellower pastoral feel compared to the first one, and is absolutely gorgeous, evoking for me, the classic Windham Hill sound.


On a piece called “Stone Lions” Bob shows his expertise on a difficult guitar technique called tapping. Here,220px-Tapping_guitar-1 instead of the guitar being strummed or plucked with one hand while the other hand is fingering notes or chords on the fretboard, both hands are on the fretboard tapping notes and sequences, almost like a pianist playing notes and chords with both hands on the keyboard. It is quite challenging to master, but Bob is certainly adept at it and provides a virtuoso display of his abilities. In addition to “Stone Lions,”there are three other energetic tapping tunes on the CD:  “Tap Jockey”, “Stop Motion” and “The Tortoise and Achilles”.  The last two are completely impossible without the Harmonic Capo. While I could say that they are all are quite impressive, I think the term “mind-blowing” would be more descriptive. I had to chuckle when Bob called his song “Tap Jockey”an unapologetic show-off tune.”


With 13 highly detailed tracks on the album, I won’t go into depth on all of them, but will be happy to provide some highlights. On a song called “Caravan Jam,” Bob and company venture into the World music genre with a Middle Eastern influenced piece that is as evocative as it is exotic. One of the two solo compositions entitled “Approaching Joy,” was written at a bit of a dark time in Bob’s life. Interestingly however, according to Bob: “This tune feels very sad if it is played slowly and happy if played fast. I like to play it so it is ‘Approaching Joy.’” Bob has been a long time fan of fusion guitar virtuoso John McLaughlin and two very pretty songs on the album, “All I Can Say” and “Once Upon A Sky” reflect a bit of that influence. Another iconic name in the fusion genre is Weather Report, who Bob cites as the inspiration for a track called “Meeting of Waters.”


Bob and Bear Kilgore

Bob and Bear Kilgore

While the guitar is certainly the focal point of the album, I must give major acknowledgement to the accompanists as well for their fine contributions to Bob’s compositions. Sarah Dean’s accomplished cello work added a soaring and soulful dimension, which at times reminded me of frequent Will Ackerman collaborator and Paul Winter Consort member Eugene Friesen. Bob’s brother Bear Kilgore who played on all but the two solo guitar tracks is a phenomenal musician in his own right. As a keyboardist, he brought a rainbow of musical colors and textures in his use of synthesizers to emulate a wide variety of different instruments in addition to piano. The intricate interplay, counterpoint, and musical rapport between the two brothers was exquisite.


There is no doubt that Bob Kilgore is a “guitarist’s guitarist.” From the incredible range of his compositions to his highly stylized playing techniques and absolute mastery of the fretboard, not to mention his invention and use of the Harmonic Capo, Bob is taking the instrument to a new level of exploration and innovation. However, as he shared, “Time and Again took four years to finish and I don’t know if there will be another album. In which case I would say, don’t miss an opportunity to check out this impeccably innovative guitarist with a uniquely original sound that could well be unlike anything you’ve heard before.


Click on the links below to hear samples and/or purchase this album: