Fingerstyle guitarists Teja Gerken and Doug Young are acclaimed as acoustic performers on their own. Now they come together in a highly anticipated new album, Duets, that blends their talent into a collection of instrumental tunes.
The duo will release Duets on March 21, though they postponed a planned album-release in Fairfax to a later, as-yet-to-be-determined date.
To those familiar with acoustic fingerstyle guitar, Gerken is a seasoned performer whose eclectic musical style encompasses folk, contemporary classical and world music, often played with alternate tunings and percussive effects.
“I’ve been active as a performing guitarist in the Bay Area for 25 years, but I’ve always also done some other things,” says Gerken, who was senior editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine for 17 years. Gerken is also the co-founder of Peghead Nation, an online guitar and stringed instrument instructional website.
“Really, all I do is related to guitars and acoustic music,” he says.
In his own right, Young is a performer, arranger and composer as well as an in-demand instructor and music journalist. Gerken and Young first met through Acoustic Guitar magazine, and they’ve been playing together for 15 years.
“A couple of years ago, we decided we really are a duo,” Gerken says. With that in mind, they set about recording an album at Young’s home studio.
The result, Duets, is a rich blend of guitar music featuring Gerken and Young playing a dozen instruments ranging from steel-string acoustics, low-tuned baritones, metal-bodied resonators, full-size and miniature 12-strings, nylon-string classicals and an electric archtop jazz guitar. Using those instruments, they perform 11 tracks that include their individual originals, traditional folk tunes, classical pieces, an adaptation of a Beatles song and a song penned by banjo star Béla Fleck.
“It’s not always easy to arrange a duet with someone, you have to find your space,” Gerken says. “Somehow with Doug that’s been a natural process.”
The songs on Duets go beyond a typical rhythm and lead relationship between the guitars; rather Gerken and Young create interlocking parts that sound like one larger instrument.
When the album-release show finally does happen, Young and Gerken will perform at the Wu Wei Tea Temple, which Gerken calls the most acoustic-music-friendly venue in town.
“It gives you an old-school Fairfax vibe, I really love the place,” he says. “Tracy (Brien) who runs it has created a nice community hub that I think Fairfax really needed.”