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Geoff Hartwell: Press/Reviews

"He's my hope for the future...I can't say enough good stuff about him. The really cool thing about Geoff is that he's got all the chops but he's got SOUL."
Geoff Hartwell is the greatest blues-rock, slide-guitar player I've ever heard, bar none.
theworkingmusician.com, MORE SUGAR! Magazine
New York's Geoff Hartwell is very impressive on his sophomore CD release. Hartwell's a talented guitarist with a knack for writing - in style and theme - "Drinking Bourbon Whiskey" being a lively example. As good as he is with the pen he is even better with a guitar- straight and slide -and it's easy to hear why he was able to attract talents like steel guitar player Cindy Cashdollar and Sonny Landreth to this project. On "Tumbelina" (co-written by Hartwell with Jerry Scaringe) Hartwell goes head to head with Landreth (on slide) to a photo finish. Before he lets loose with his own piercing solo on a smoky original called "Hate To See You Go" he lets saxophone player Dana Colley go all out on baritone. Besides giving the song color and depth Colley raises the question of why that instrument ever went out of favor in rock and roll and rhythm and blues. As a nice bit of extra, Hartwell also provides the chords to a few of his originals.
It's clear from the start that Hartwell must be a pretty hot live act but he's also capable of taste and restraint; he know how much is too much and he gives his band and guests - especially Colley- plenty of room to maneuver. He's also inventive and able enough to breathe new life into old chestnuts like George Gershwin's "Summertime" and Chuck Berry's "Maybelline".
Vintage Guitar Magazine
"There's something incredibly satisfying about a guitar lick that gallops up the strings and tags every sweet note in it's path...Saucy!"
Jude Gold - Guitar Player Magazine
Pleasantville native Geoff Hartwell developed a national reputation as a slide guitarist through his summer stints at the National Guitar Workshop. There he gained the devotion of countless students as well as camaraderie with his heroes Sonny Landredth and Cindy Cashdollar, both of whom make appearances on "Hate To See You Go," Hartwell's sophomore effort. On his first record, "Perfect Stranger," Hartwell showcased his songwriting abilities. On this CD, he aims for a live, "balls to the wall" approach with a mix of originals and covers.

He shows up with all guns blazing. On the infectious first track, "Tumbelina", penned by Hartwell and "Slippery Chickens" bassist Jerry Scaringe, the guitarist shares licks with the legendary Sonny Landredth. How's that for stepping up to the plate! "Drinkin' Bourbon Whiskey" sounds like an arena rock sing along. Another Hartwell staple, "Honest," finally makes its record debut. I approached listening to this slow blues with great trepidation. After all, I've heard him nail this a hundred times. Would he capture the raw intensity on tape? Duh, YES! "Dreams," composed by Hartwell, features a peppy, funky beat. "Where do you go when you look so far away I want to tell you that someday I know you'll find your own way... Your dreams are closer than they seem." Producer Matt Smith does a wonderful job of layering guitars and cutting instruments in and out.

Hartwell takes some risks and spreads his wings on this record especially on the two songs that feature baritone sax player Dana Colley. The slow and slinky title track, "Hate to See You Go," features a sly twist of words. "I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave." Check out the album cover to see what he means! The title of "Bar Fungul" features more wry word play. The instrumental, written by Hartwell and bassist Rich Kelly, harks back to Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein." And it gives Colley, and Hartwell a chance to cut loose. On the Gershwin classic, "Summertime," Hartwell plays a beautifully conceived slide intro. His church roots show through with the gossamer instrumental duet with Cashdollar on the traditional "Water is Wide." Cindy Cashdollar and Hartwell funk the crap out of Chuck Berry's "Maybelline." I'll bet Maybelline never got ridden like that. Throughout the record, drummer J.J. Clarke and bassist Rich Kelly lock tighter than crazy glue. Playing hundreds of gigs per year will do it for you.

The Geoff Hartwell Band continues to grow and mature. The next step? I'd like to see them get out on the road with the likes of Sonny Landredth, Popa Chubby, Joe Bonnamassa, Derek Trucks, and Johnny Winter. Catch them before they take off!
Roger Z. - MORE SUGAR! Magazine (2009)
"Guitar slinger/songwriter Geoff Hartwell's debut CD
'Perfect Stranger' is a true testimonial to his
obvious love and talent with both the sonic and the
sonnet, the searing and the soft".
"His words come from a place beyond his years, clearly the lessons of his nearly two decades playing live. At 29, he seems to have picked up what other musicians sometimes take entire lifetimes to realize."
"(Geoff Hartwell) has distinguished himself as an up and coming musician and songwriter with some serious slide guitar chops."
MORE SUGAR! Magazine
"Aside from being an outstanding musician and guitar player, Geoff Hartwell’s skills as a clinician put him at the top of the heap. Geoff’s knowledge and understanding of the mechanics of slide playing is bullet-proof. The master-class he conducted at the Lone Star School of Music was attended by absolute beginners, professional guitarists and every level in between- No one left empty-handed.
Not only do Geoff’s skills as a slide player put him in an elite group of musicians, but his ability to break down those skills and demonstrate them in simple, crystal clear terms make him one of a kind."
Kurt Phillips - President, Lone Star School of Music, Austin, Texas
"I love this record! ... Hartwell earned a local reputation as a major shredder on both regular and slide guitar. It's not just Hartwell's songwriting prowess that impresses...On the opening track "Mirage," Hartwell creates fills that perfectly echo the vocals. His beautifully architected slide solo in the middle of "Where I Want to Be" climaxes to reveal the shredder within. On "Star," when he unleashes his solo, the speed and ferocity cement his reputation.
Not only does the CD sleeve feature a photo of Hartwell in all his long haired, guitar-playing glory, it also prints out the song lyrics along with chords and capo positions. What next Mr. Hartwell -- tablature?
The Geoff Hartwell Band outperform expectations with their stunning debut record. Hey, major record labels. Get a clue. Pick up this CD, and give it the big-money promotional push it so heartily deserves."
"Guitar Master Geoff Hartwell"
Interview by Roger-Z

Roger-Z: Who inspired you to pick up the guitar?
Geoff Hartwell: My dad. He played for me a lot as a kid, and got me started playing. I come from a Celtic background, and we made a lot of music just as a matter of course. Not only parties and funerals and so forth, but as a way of hanging out together. It was natural to tell stories and sing songs, and swap instruments. And music is still a very social and inclusive thing for me.

Roger-Z: What other instruments do you play?
Geoff Hartwell: I have a BA in Music from Hartwick College with guitar as my primary instrument. I also play banjo, mandolin, lap steel, dobro, bass guitar, drums and keyboards.

Roger-Z: Which groups do you work with and where?
Geoff Hartwell: I have two solo albums, and a new CD coming out that is a collaboration with Oteil Burbridge (bass player for the Allman Brothers), Kofi Burbridge (keyboard player for the Tedeschi Trucks Band), Yonrico Scott (drummer from the Derek Trucks Band), Chuck Leavell (piano player for the Rolling Stones and the Allman Brothers) and Erik Lawrence and Steven Bernstein (horn section for Levon Helm). I'm REALLY proud of this work and I can't wait for everyone to hear it soon. So that's my forthcoming solo thing. I also play in a NY-Based 80's Rock cover band called "The Fred Savages" which is a lot of fun. And then I also play with Padraig Allen and the McLean Ave Band, an amazing Irish band. I play mostly banjo, and some electric guitar with them. We just played at the Valley Forge Mid-Winter Celtic Festival outside of Philly and it was a blast. Last summer we went to Philly, Boston, Cleveland, and a ton of other great festivals. I LOVE playing festivals and hanging with the other bands, and I'm looking forward to doing a bunch more work with them.

Roger-Z: How's your weekly jam going?
Geoff Hartwell: Great! I run a free acoustic jam every Thursday at Opus 465 in Armonk NY from 8 to 11 pm. It's a really special place with great food, and a great staff. They have a ton of live music there, about four nights a week, and it's really chill -- a great setting for getting together and playing music on Thursday nights. I rotate my duo partners every week, so sometimes it's a fiddle player, or bass player, or guitarist, etc. But it keeps it fresh, for sure. And it's early. You're not waiting around until late on a week night. So that's another plus.

Roger-Z: Tell me about your teaching practice and new studio.
Geoff Hartwell: I have a new multi-room studio in Pleasantville where I teach, rehearse, write and record, as well as rent fully-equipped rehearsal space with drums, amps, PA, and everything. I teach a bunch of private students on guitar, piano, bass, drums, and banjo/mandolin. And I put together bands of adults who come to the studio once a week. I have them learn three songs in a few weeks, and then I take them to a jam and have them perform once a month or so. It's a great way for them to keep learning stuff, and also be performing regularly. One of my favorite sayings is "Three chords make your life three chords better". Meaning, not everyone feels the need to practice a million hours to become an exceptional musician. It's great if that's your case and I totally support that. But I also believe that if someone digs music and just wants to play some songs that they like because it makes them feel good, I want to be able to make that accessible and successful, and most of all enjoyable. Life is too short as it is, so trying to help others connect through music is something I'm really passionate about. If anyone is looking for lessons, recording or rehearsal time, please email me at geoffhartwell@geoffhartwell.com and/or facebook.com/geoffhartwellmusic.

Roger-Z: How do you enjoy producing records?
Geoff Hartwell: I LOVE it. I just recently finished producing the debut release from Michael Pennacchio (www.ReverbNation.com/michaelpennacchio) called "Better in the Morning." It came out great and I'm really proud of it. He's an amazingly talented songwriter, and it was a pleasure to work on. My first rule as a producer is "Do No Harm!" The songs and their aesthetic, whatever that may be, have to work together sonically to complete the message of the song and get it across to the listener. Michael already has great songs to begin with, so my job was pretty straightforward. Once we got the arrangements together and revised a few things, it was a matter of fleshing them out with instrumentation and dynamics. And sometimes, that needs to be the opposite, meaning leave the song as naked as you can to translate that intimacy. His song "Heart Beat" is a great example of that concept -- making the song stronger by NOT adding a bunch of stuff on top. As they say, sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

Roger-Z: What's your approach to songwriting?
Geoff Hartwell: I don't really have a standard approach to songwriting other than to do it all the time. I'm not a particularly prolific songwriter because I love to revise. And revise... And revise. I call it "beating a dead horse back to life", haha. But the reason for that is to hopefully make all the elements the strongest that they can be. Chord progression, melody, harmony, lyrics, arrangement, everything. I'll tell you a funny story. Several years ago I was working with a producer on one of my songs and he asked me, "What's the coolest part of the song?" And I started to reply about this cool little part that happened in this one little place, and he interrupted me and said, "How come the rest of the song isn't that cool?" My jaw dropped and then I just busted out laughing. But that reminds me to look at all the parts mercilessly and seriously consider how each can be revised to make them the best they can be.