PATIO SHOW :: Eric Congdon

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PATIO SHOW :: Eric Congdon

Guitarist Eric Congdon channels Chet Atkins

Guitarist Eric Congdon has a low-key virtuosity. His finger-picking guitar style radiates both skill and charm, and his instrumental material incorporates everything from blues to bluegrass. Whether playing solo or with a small ensemble, Congdon's forceful yet delicate style doesn't flaunt as much as it insinuates. The N.C.-based Congdon has been playing for 30 years, and he fell in love with the fingerpicking style early on.

“I just love it,” he said, “whether it's blues, country or anything else. It's just being able to play the rhythm, the chords and everything yourself.” “It's really challenging to do it right, but it's fun. You're almost like a whole band in one if you can do it.” Congdon counts Tommy Emmanuel and Rev. Gary Davis among his influences, but he started with one of the best guitarists ever. “I love Chet Atkins, and digging into his music is how I learned about Tommy Emmanuel and a lot of other players,” he said. “And it was just a process of digging and listening to albums and watching videos.”Though Congdon has focused on instrumentals, he's written more than 500 songs, many of which also have lyrics. He's refreshingly blunt about why he's moved toward instrumentals.
“I've written a lot of songs with vocals, but to be honest, I don't think I'm a particularly good lyricist,” he said. “I've found that a lot of what I was trying to say was clichéd, and I decided to think about the music for a while. So I dug into the melodies and chords, and I found my voice that way.” Congdon says that even without lyrics, his songs can be autobiographical. “I know a lot of the songs I've composed are very emotional,” he said. “I have one on the new CD, a really simple acoustic jam, that's called 'The Second Kiss,' which is about my second child Emily, who's autistic. And if you listen to the music, you can hear there's some bittersweet longing in the music. I try to think along the lines of, 'What am I trying to convey musically?' And to say that without words is very challenging.”