Fat Knuckle Freddy
Alfred Hitchcock Plays Guitar
The last time we checked in on the prolific guitarist (and South Portland cop) Al Giusto, he was exploring both sides of his Fat Knuckle Freddy persona – the rustic, American Primitive acoustic side, and the brash, growling blues side. On his latest, Alfred Hitchcock Plays Guitar, we get to hear him flesh out his vision of the former. Giusto plays the entire record on his new National M1 Tricone Resonator baritone acoustic, an instrument originally invented to project volume in the days before amps. He shifts between the warmth of his finger-picking and the metallic wail of his slide, while using the baritone’s deep lows to frame every trip up the neck as a remarkably expressive journey. It’s just him, the whole time, yet Hitchcock is as rich and nuanced as a full-band effort. The skies are mostly cloudy on this record. The LP begins with the first of two requiems, its mournful peals dedicated to an NYPD officer who died of a 9/11-related illness. This is followed by “At Night I’d Rather Be Dreaming of You,” where Giusto’s yearning, country-western riff sounds like a ranch hand’s dog begging to be let out. The nine-minute title track is a downright tour de force, beginning and ending with clockwork-like harmonic squeals that inspired its name. Yet it never descends into Hitchcockian horror. Giusto lays down a bass line reminiscent of Bizet’s “Habanera” to anchor the album’s most ambitious, eloquent performance. Like the mansion from Rebecca, this is true grandeur, weighed down by old, echoing sadness.