Reviews: Castlerea
Dirty Linen

Issue #118, by Tom Nelligan (Jun/Jul 2005)

Maryland guitarist Jim Tozier has released Castelrea [self-produced JTCD0301 (2003)], a collection of mostly solo fingerstyle instrumentals, some traditional (like a sensitive, graceful rendition of Turlough O'Carolan's "Planxty Irwin") and many original in Celtic-inspired styles (such as the title cut, a quick, dancing reel full of bright little ornaments). Tozier is a DADGAD specialist, which lends a richly resonating sound to tracks, like his moody instrumental version of the English song "The Blacksmith", which leads into a deep, sad original melody.

» See the review at Dirty Linen

Guitar Nation

by Norman Beberman, June 2003

Jim Tozier is a finger-style guitarist from Maryland. Specializing in traditional Celtic music and original Celtic-inspired compositions, Jim plays primarily in the alternate tunings of DADGAD and CGCGCD.

Most guitarists play with their hands. What makes Jim a great guitarist, and what makes Castlerea such a thoroughly enjoyable CD, is that Jim plays with his heart. Jim's guitar-playing conjures images of plaid Scotsmen playing bagpipes, images of a solitary walk through fields that are emerald green and images of a time, a place and a culture that found beauty in things like nature and family.

This 19-track CD is filled with excellent Celtic fingerstyle playing. Gracefully alternating between delicate melodies and powerful melodies paying tribute to flamenco influences, Jim's original compositions express in music those thoughts that are timeless; love of children and family in "Owen's March," "M'inion Alainn," "The Courtship" and "Rings"; respect for those who have come before us in "Castlerea"; eternal struggle of man against nature in "The Last Keeper" and "Idyll Hours"; importance of community and social gatherings in "County Fair"; pursuing dreams in "Tilting of Windmills."

As a fan of traditional Celtic music, "Planxty Irwin," The Blacksmith part of "The Blacksmith/Passions' Forge," "The Rights of Man/Brian Boru's March," and "Pretty Girl Milking a Cow" were brilliantly interpreted and played. As a further testament to Jim's playing, the traditional "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," played with Al Petteway on Irish bouzouki, transcends the label of "holiday song." Castelrea ends much too quickly with "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," played with John Sweet in a superb demonstation of a duet played in C-tuning by Jim and standard tuning by John.

Whether playing one of his original compositions, playing with noted guitarist Al Petteway, or one of Jim's faithful renditions of traditional Celtic tunes, Castlerea firmly establishes Jim as one of the most eloquent Celtic guitarists in the world.

To hear for yourself, go to Jim's website and click on "Songs." Pour a Guiness, Fuller's, Bass or Harp and enjoy the mp3's. Erin Go Bragh!

» See the review at Guitar Nation

The Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar Page

by Art Edelstein, June 2003

Jim is a new player who has studied with Al Petteway. Thus, we know he will be a lyrical, taste conscious performer with considerable chops. Al recorded this CD and the sound is marhvelous!!! Not all the material on this CD is Celtic, although Jim says its "Celtic Inspired." He does several from the traditional repertoire including Carolan's Planxty Irwin, The Rights of Man, and Pretty Girl Milking a Cow (!) (Is this the next Julia Roberts movie title???) Much of the CD is dedicated to New American Steel String Guitar playing a la, Kottke, Fahey, Basio and others. A really good first effort.

» See the review at The Celtic Fingerstyle Guitar Page

Green Man Review

by John O'Regan, July 2006

Jim Tozier's Celtic Guitar and Solo Guitar find the Irish American guitarist visiting both sides of his musical heritage. American born though with relations in Roscommon, Jim Tozier's music is for the quiet hours of contemplation. He is not one to throw out blizzards of technical virtuosity, but rather someone that knows the space between the notes and their effectiveness. Celtic Guitar has him tackling a series of Irish and Scottish pieces, mostly airs, which he acquits well and by playing them in a simplified, laidback manor he achieves an atmosphere of quiet reverie. Highlights include "Carolan's Welcome" and "Archibald McDonald of Keppoch" where the tunes breathe and enjoy the balm of a choice treatment. Solo Guitar features a series of original pieces -- again while this is a solo recording, the atmosphere is as different as is the palate of stylistic influences. "Song for Shannon" is a melodic tribute to his youngest daughter and the John Renbourne-flavoured tones of "The Water Crossers" lay in the memory long after the CD has been returned to its jewel case. Tozier has a lovely assured sense of touch and feel in his acoustic playing and these two releases are fine soul food after a hard day's work.

» See the review at Green Man Review

Rambles--A Cultural Arts Magazine

by Carole McDonnell, Sep. 17, 2005

The eloquent and lyrical 21 tracks of Jim Tozier's Celtic Guitar CD show him to be a highly skilled acoustic guitar player. Each stroke shows the sure and steady hand of a master.

From the slow and lyrical "Blind Mary" to the moodier "Paddy's Green Shamrock Shore" (which is accompanied with his own composition, "The Drums of Dawn") to the quicker "The Rocks of Brae," Tozier's CD is an amazing tribute to the Irish and Scottish folk tradition.

Some tunes, such as "Slane," "Paddy O'Carroll" and "Loch Lomond," are well-known already, and the critical ear will find no false, ambivalent or ambiguous note on this album of Scottish and Irish folk instrumentals. Other tracks are equally traditional but not melodies that I personally have heard before, such as "Pretty Girl Milking a Cow."

Most of the songs on the CD are slow and full of a melancholy Celtic longing. I would have liked a peppier mix, reminding us the Celtic soul does have its merrier, friskier moments. Nevertheless this is a great album, and both guitarists and those who love Celtic folk music will like this collection of tunes.

» See the review at Rambles

Bridge Guitar Reviews

by Hank te Veldhuis, 2005

This finger-style guitarist USA, gets his inspiration from the surroundings of the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland, USA. Jim plays as well Celtic as original compositions derived from his Irish heritage. He studied together with Al Petteway and El McMeen and one feels the warm embracing sound of his steel string acoustic guitar. Jim Tozier has a lyrical approach in his composing style and his music reflects skilled techniques with an embracing soothing and melancholic touch. Jim plays mostly in DADGAD and some other open tunings, which give his guitar music that Celtic feeling. His album Solo Guitar contains 16 splendid pieces of art which fully absorb a listener in a passionate way. Jim's music is honest and one feels it comes direct from his heart. He just paints his songs in intriguing and coloured sound palettes. He presents a showcase of techniques with hammer-on and pulling off techniques and flowing rich overtones in moving melodies as "Monkeyshines," "The Water-Crossers" and for instance "Dragonflies." "The Sheffield Shuffle" has a intense groove in a brilliant setting just as "Train Station Blues." At the same time Jim released Celtic Guitar which is completely focused on Celtic traditionals with pieces from Turlough O'Carolan and Scottish and Irish works. Jim Tozier is a sublime acoustic guitarist with a rousing own signature.

» See the review at Bridge Guitar Reviews