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Music Review: Dave Tipton – Memento

By Brian Rill

David Tipton’s Memento is a touching tribute to the golden melodies of popular culture. The soothing sounds of a solo stick master rat-at-at-tating his steel strings offers a sweet relief to even the most stressed-out customer. Tipton, the original gangster of elevator music, makes a strikingly appealing and broad, sweeping declaration of sounds that calm the inner ear in this melodious instrumental album. Emmet Chapman invented his iconic namesake instrument known as the Chapman Stick in the 1970s. A distant cousin to the guitar, the stick is played by tapping both hands on a long, wide, fret board along ten to twelve strings that span the entire length of the frets.

The Rolling Stones classic, Angie, is the first track on the CD’s playlist, and warms up the listener’s ears for what is to come. After that, another nine classic tunes flow after the first, including melodies from artists such as David Bowie, Neil Young and Elton John. Even that long-ago standard from Pink Floyd’s vintage album, Dark Side of The Moon makes an appearance, the song Brain Damage lulls you into a meditative state with its familiar tones of time-honored psychedelia.

David says that by learning the chord progressions on the left hand and melodies on the right hand, he could learn and memorize tunes faster than ever. That goes to attest to the fact that during his plethora of live performances, the audience often will try to stump Tipton by calling out a few favorite songs, and, to their amazement, he pulls them right out of his hat, which is often filled to the brim with dollar bills and other offerings to the Chapman Stick champion.

You will definitely find yourself whistling along with the popular hooks tapped out on the Stick’s melodic strings – sometimes singing under your breath along with the chorus or even belting it out loud among friends during an evening’s festivities. The overall uniqueness and novelty of the Chapman Stick, together with Dave’s mastery, make this album stand out as a great gift to create the ideal form of background music while still remaining at the forefront of your mind, while the lyrics slide easily off the tip of your tongue.

Overall, my favorite musical number on the album is by far the fluid and lilting cover of Led Zeppelin’s magnum opus, Going To California. Tipton captures the sunny Sunday vibes and dreamy resonance of the original work. Try to catch this highly-motivated musician around Salida, among the many appearances often listed in the paper in the up-and-coming section, or scroll through his website and enjoy a taste of the many tunes tapped out along the wide career of a one-man melody machine. The album is available in CD form as well as streaming and online download from any of your favorite music purchasing sites, along with David’s own site, where you can also find more albums and information about his music.

Brian Rill is a teacher, performer, activist poet and award-winning Latin songwriter voted Salida’s best musician 2009.