Originally published in Guitar World, June 2010
The acoustic guitarist mixes styles on Synthesis.
Raul Midon plays acoustic guitar like a tiger—with ferocity and grace. On Synthesis, his fifth album, he slaps, snaps, taps and plucks his way through 11 songs that capture an organic style that fits flamenco, classical music, jazz and rock inside a lush pelt of pure, uplifting pop.
Midon makes everything sound breezy, whether he’s negotiating a cleverly harmonized version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird”—a yardstick for chord melodists—or his own “Bonnie’s Song,” which cruises blissfully in 11/8 as his supporting crew of jazzbos, bassist-producer Larry Kleine and über-drummer Vinnie Colaiuta keep pace. In fact, Midon’s vibe is always upbeat, even in “About You,” where he glides through the tag, “I never really gave a fuck about you,” in an effervescent tenor as sunny as Stevie Wonder singing “Isn’t She Lovely.”
Like Wonder, Midon is blind. He developed his musical vision practicing and improvising eight hours a day, which accounts for his right hand’s five-finger independence and his wealth of chord voicings. He also attended the University of Miami and served a long apprenticeship playing bars and singing backup on hits by Shakira, Julio Iglesias and others.
“I beat the odds,” Midon says. “I grew up blind in rural New Mexico. I left a studio career in Miami to move to New York at age 37 and launched my recording career. Now I’ve made an album that sums up the elements of my music in a way that’s never happened before.”
Midon gives some credit for Synthesis’ seamlessness to a new software package called CakeTalking, which literally gives voice to the common studio recording software Cakewalk Sonar. “CakeTalking gave me access to every single parameter of home recording,” Midon explains, “telling me the room size of reverbs, the degree of compression…everything. Thanks to that I was able to make the most complete home demos I’ve ever made, laying down every part I wanted to hear on each song, right down to the bass notes. With CakeTalking, I can make an instrumental album all by myself.”