Reviews -The Minstrel Boy

Here are reviews of Glenn Weiser's first book of Celtic fingerstyle guitar arrangements, "The Minstrel Boy." The book is now out of print, but 36 of the tunes have been reprinted in his "Folk Songs for Solo Guitar," and 24 more are included in his Celtic Guitar".

See also: Reviews of  Celtic Harp Music of Carolan and Others for Solo Guitar

The Minstrel Boy
Arranged by Glenn Weiser

"For intermediate players. Featuring 85 traditional fiddle tunes for fingerstyle guitar, all in standard or dropped-D tuning, this is one of the most cohesive and well-organized introductions to playing Irish, Scottish, and American fiddle tunes on guitar."
 -Dylan Schorer for Acoustic Guitar, October 1995

"'The Minstrel Boy' is the first of three volumes that guitarist Glenn Weiser has prepared of fingerstlye arrangements of fiddle tunes and other music with Celtic roots. The compositions are divided into four sections: Jigs, Reel, Hornpipes, and "Marches, Airs,  Songs and Tunes."  Tunes are presented in standard notation and tablature. Unlike many arrangements of this material, Weiser's are either in standard or dropped-D tuning, saving you broken strings and those interminable tuning breaks. I had little trouble playing the tunes I attemped, which either means Weiser's arrangements are relatively playable or I'm getting better (I suspect the former). The combination of accesible tunings, reasonable arrangements, and a good choice of tunes makes Weiser's book a cut above other books covering similar material. If you are interested in learning how to fingerpick some Celtic tunes on guitar, "The Minstrel Boy" is a good place to start."
                                         -Mike Parish for Dirty Linen

"One should bear in mind that Weiser's arrangements are intended for the solo guitarist, performing in a fingerpicking style; also, the concept of 'Traditional' is intended to embrace Celtic tunes, originating from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany and the Cape Breton area of Nova Scotia, although Weiser does include some Americanized versions of tunes of Celtic origin or flavor.
Given these premises, an artist either proficient in or familiar with this guitar style should be in for a treat. The arrangements appear to be true and accurate and range from fairly basic to moderate difficulty; there is a fairly good mix between reels, jigs, hornpipes, and a "catch-all" category of airs, marches, songs, and tunes. The music is set forth in both standard notation and tablature. Note that fully 35 of the tunes are keyed in D and the tuning employed for all of these tunes has the sixth string dropped from E to D, with no other tuning change. Also, since the emphasis of the arrangements is for the solo performer, a great deal of each arrangement is geared toward developing the bass lines, especially as to the aspect of harmony with the lead line. Most of the songs are played in the key that they are usually played on the fiddle, with a few exceptions ("Devil's Dream" in G and "Flowers of Edinburgh" in open A), but in most cases where there is a variance, Weiser points it out to the reader.
I recognized about twenty of these tunes as having been recorded or performed by bluegrass bands and a few more which I have heard from old-time bands. Obviously, Weiser's arrangements may not be of much use within the context of a band, be it bluegrass or old-time.
However, any guitarist, regardless of playing style, interested in working up fiddle tunes of this sort, should obtain a great deal of assistance from these arrangements, at the very least from the statement of the melodies and the source materials given.
My one complaint and criticism is that Weiser has neglected to indicate any key changes within the tablature, which shouldn't pose much difficulty for one who is familiar with the melody and chord changes on "Fisher's Hornpipe," but will probably confound one who has never heard (at least in this life) "The Road to Lisdoonvarna."
This work attractively packaged and presented and represents a great deal of effort and study by Mr.Weiser; it is a worthwhile purchase, not only for the content of the arrangement, but for the discussion of sources and origins of the tunes, which reveal Mr.Weiser's broad familiarity with the "Tradition." In case he left out your favorite song in this compilation, never fear, for another volume, containing 90 more songs will soon be released.
                                        -Jim Steptoe for Bluegrass Unlimited, April 1991

"So many familiar and traditional tunes are of Celtic origin, and a large number of them are in this volume. Weiser has scoured the available sources to compile a collection of melodies with enduring appeal. (You'll be surprised to find how many you recognize and remember fondly.) Included are such perennial favorites as "The Ash Grove," "Danny Boy," "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes," "Oh! Them Golden Slippers," "Turkey in the Straw," and dozens more. The sections of the book deal with the various dance and song forms: reel, jig, hornpipe, waltz, air, march, and polka, and there are explanatory notes on the tune types as well as the individual pieces.
The music is presented in simple uncluttered textures, almost always in two voices - the melody with a bass accompaniment. There is nothing here to tax unduly the technique of an intermediate student. The versions are shorter than they look, since a parallel tablature version is given. The arrangements are straightforward, without development or harmonic complexity, and this is probably appropriate here. The intention seems not to be to provide concert versions of the pieces, but to offer very basic and playable arrangements for entertainment and the sheer pleasure of playing and sharing these delightful tunes."
                                         -David Grimes for GFA Soundboard, Spring 1991



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