Don Alder "Armed & Dangerous"

- James Filkins (12/2015)


Don't let the cover art of Don Alder's Armed & Dangerous CD throw you. It pays homage to the cast of the Walking Dead TV series and features a trench-coated zombie slayer armed with a fan fret acoustic guitar equipped with optional head stock blade, body blade, variable angle chainsaw and a flame thrower whammy bar. Scary as that might be, musically there is nothing dead about this vibrant collection of 12 original compositions. In fact, the only scary thing here is that Alder's infectious fretwork will leave an indelible imprint in your musical memory. The highly accoladed Alder has attained more fret-cred than, perhaps any other fingerstylist over the past eight or nine years, yet there is no sense that he has any intention of resting on his laurels if this often energetic and engaging CD is any indication. Much like his last release, Not a Planet, Alder offers a variety of sonic flavors and styles with technique and execution that are precise and so very fluid. There is an improvisational feel to the performances on Armed & Dangerous that create an immediacy that is fast becoming an Alder trademark. "Going Rogue" opens the CD with a deceptively intricate and eloquent intro before sliding, literally and sonically, head long in a tasty, yet funky grove that burst continually in unexpected melodic directions - as if the fret board of Alder's baritone guitar were a roller coaster and his fingers were alternately delighted, thrilled and hanging on for dear life. Before you have time to recover from the opening track, Alder lets loose "Love & Life," perhaps the most beautiful and satisfying vocal tunes he has ever penned, complete with full band accompaniment and violins that heighten the melody and Alder's spot on vocals. If I weren't for the phenomenal guitar work throughout this album, "Love & Life," would be my favorite track. Something tells me that Don Alder a Grammy ward winning singer/songwriter CD in his future. As he has proven before, the man can flat-out sing! "Dancing with Spin Doctors," adds a whole new aspect to Alder's repertoire. He lays down and electric finger-style groove with help from Billy Sheehan on bass and Sam Cartwright on drums that has Eric Johnson-esque overtones and feels completely at home nestled in amongst the acoustic bulk of this collection. For sheer beauty both "Sophrosyne" and "Precious Moments" show the delicate side of Alder's fretwork as he coaxes sweetness from a baritone guitar that I haven't heard since Pat Metheny's One Quiet Night. Other highlights include "Circuitous," a fingerstyle gem and the spirited "Three Good Reasons To Play," a duet written and with Luca Francioso. Not surprisingly, the release of Armed & Dangerous coincides with Don Alder's name appearing on the cover of Guitar Player Magazine. Go figure...

Don Alder "Not A Planet"

– Henk te Veldhuis-Bridge

Guitar Reviews-© 2008


As a 2007 International Fingerstyle Champion in Winfield, Kansas, Don Alder released several acoustic guitar albums with brilliant guitar stuff with many influences from as well folk, blues, jazz, pop and other styles. Don released most instrumental acoustic guitar albums. He travelled all over the world with stunning live guitar shows. His newest album contains fascinating acoustic guitar with guest musicians like the legendary bass player Michael Manring and harpist Julia Thornton and pianist Brad Hoyt. On 9 of the 13 tracks Don is exploring a new setup with a band with fantastic musicians, in diverse musical textures and colours. On two songs, "6 ft Tall" and "Haunting Me" you can check out Don Alder on lead vocals in fine pop sounding songs with Tim Tweedale on slide guitar. "Sayonara " Calm" is a duet with Michael Manring on fretless bass, a lovely journey towards the heart and soul. "Mr. Anderson" is full of groove and staccato bass. On "The Blue Shift Principle" a superb interaction takes place between Don Alder, Michael Manring and drummer Ray Garraway, again full of groove and rhythm. On "Ms Diana" Don has a wonderful duet with Julia Thornton on harp. A lot of groove going on also on "Finger's Fingers a song by Don with some inspiration of fellow guitarist Peter Finger. "Not A Planet" is certainly a very versatile CD with very talented musicians and among all Don Alder excels in excellent guitar virtuosity.

Don Alder  "Acoustic Matters" - (independent, 2007)


This Vancouver, British Columbia resident is good with his hands whether it be picking a guitar or working on a wheelchair. Canadian Don Alder was a member of the Canadian National Paralympic team in Atlanta for the 1996 Games and again in 2000 for the Games in Sydney, Australia. Alder did not participate as an athlete but as the equipment manager and wheelchair technician. Alder is also the guitar player for the band Spinal Chord, which is the performance band for the Adapted Music Society. And Alder still finds time to support friend Rick Hansen's Foundation -- Rick Hansen Man in Motion Foundation -- which promotes the potential of people with disabilities and spinal chord injury research.
Along with all these activities Don Alder has released Acoustic Matter, a CD of instrumental guitar music. Alder is no ordinary picker; he uses a technique known as finger-style picking. At the 2007 International Finger Style Championships held in Kansas, Alder placed first. While picking, Alder at times will beat on his guitar's soundboard, providing a percussion sound that is his only backup band.
Acoustic Matters is a collection of interesting and sometimes fun pieces showing off Alder's abilities. There are 10 tunes with comical titles listed on the album's cover art, but when placed in the CD player my copy of the album boasted 16 tracks. Where the mistake may be is anyone's guess, but if the CD is accurate it is indeed a pleasant surprise for fans.
Alder's album is appropriately titled since every track is only the man and his acoustic guitar.

Don Alder "Take the Train Eh! 2005" – Henk te Veldhuis - Bridge Guitar Reviews ( )


Canada is one of the places where many finger-style guitarists have their residence. Don Alder lives in Vancouver and has been a guitarist/ composer over 23 years. He performed with Don Ross, Alex de Grassi, Peppino D'Agostino among others. Also Don was a competitor in the prestigious U.S. National Finger-style Guitar Championship in Winfield, Kansas. Don Alder's influences come from guitar players like Michael Hedges, Don Ross and for instance Bruce Cockburn. His new album Take the Train Eh! is a groovy and up tempo album with extraordinary techniques on his selected guitars. He uses Greenfield, Lowden and Jenkins guitars, which all have their own unique sound. This album is a solo guitar album without Don's warm expressive voice. Don starts off with "Dr. Dr." which is full of astonishing techniques as tapping, slapping, percussion and a brilliant groove. "Meeting Pierre" is in the style of Pierre Bensusan, who also as Don plays a lot in DADGAD tuning. This song embodies a lot of space and structure with a fine gentle touch. The album would even impress more if Don focused more on melody line building and not primary on skilled techniques. "Chet or Cheese" shows his admiration for Chet Atkins in a top-notch composition. One of my favorites is "Its Only Goodbye" which has all a good song needs, balance, structure and emotion. "Tommy Time" is an ode to Tommy Emmanuel with the typical melody lines and staccato approach. One thing is clear Don Alder has an own significant signature which covers all capabilities in finger-style music. Don Alder writes all his songs himself which can compete with the best guitarists in the circuit. Seldom one sees so much quality and versatility in one guitarist. Don Alder succeeds with this album to impress any serious acoustic guitarist and listener.

Don Alder "Cool Tunes Compliation" - by Mark S. Tucker ( )


This Canadian fingerstyle guitarist is a card-carrying member of the very spare catalogue of full-spectrum players utilizing a number of techniques to wring as much as possible from the soloist role as an instrumentalist. Because he has the uncanny ability to play solo runs within the chords he's strumming while also percussing the guitar's soundbox, it's rightly said that Don Alder sounds like a small ensemble. This CD is an anthology of his own choosing, ranging from the balladic Marshal's Lanai, where he heads into Steve Tibbetts-ish territory, with slightly bent chords atmospherically evoked, to Kottke-esque multi-syncopations. Many years ago, Windham Hill produced a number of fine LPs in this vein, Will Ackerman's series chief among them, but nothing quite like this. The soft-spoken whiz Alex DeGrassi was somewhat in the vein but hadn't the chops this guy does.

Laying a genre to the release is a trifle difficult, as Alder waxes Oregon-ish one moment then delves into Ozark walk-time another (Tommy Time), but most often settles into that richly satisfying zone Leo Kottke best typifies, with complicated arabesques of far-side Americana in a modern bluegrassy mode. Of course, there are cuts like DR DR which tread again toward Tibbetts via a Coryellish Steve Khan, dark and light simultaneously. For just one instrument per tune, Alder never fails to lack for fulsome atmospheres, a trait too many other such ventures fail to capture at all.

The precision and tone required by the composer's labyrinthine work demands special instruments and, so, Alder devotes himself to hand-luthiered axes exclusively, guaranteeing warmth and pitch-perfection every note. The intelligence of his songs, though, invites a nod to Ralph Towner by way of Egberto Gismonti and Jan Akkerman. Highly atypical of what the advent of New Age music invested in the "new instrumental" genre, these songs are a great deal more than just pleasant ditties, as "Belgian Jacgues-late" shows, with its lead line slipping in and out of the chord work, the chords themselves often splitting to fuse the front melody. Wok the Dog, on the other hand, jumps and jives as a Michael Hedges' styled flash-and-swing number.

So far, Cool is the player-composer's sixth CD, with an anthology DVD available, wherein Alder's one player among five. Alas, had he only made Cool an enhanced release with a visual number tossed in. To watch his fretwork would be entrancing, but it must be suspected that the guy suffers the same malaise as many of the masters of his ilk: too few audients exist in the market with the intelligence to appreciate the finer points of handling the guitar this beautifully and, thus, the expense of enhancement probably couldn't be afforded. I once sat agape at a Ralph Towner solo gig at McCabe's and just the play of his hands over the fretboard was purest poetry - Alder's in that camp, especially in cuts like "Take the Train Eh!"

He was kind enough to also issue me a copy of a CD carrying a version of Sugarloaf's hit Green-Eyed Lady and the improv'ed cover is somewhat reminiscent of Les Deux Ami's work on Focus' (a progrock group) tunes. However, where the Amis were faithful, Alder takes many liberties and ends up with a hybrid that's tasty as hell. Truth to tell, though, I'm even more entranced by that disc, entitled Take the Train Eh!, which carries a rawer edge, much closer to live work, and opens up the fullest range of his capabilities. Every track is breath-taking but "The Sheriff" stands out as astonishingly well-crafted. The release boasts his only try in the vocal realm...and he's pretty damn good in that dept. as well.

Criticisms? Just one, and only because I'm a greedy little consumer with a pronounced weakness for the instrument. It's the same lack I felt with Tommy Emmanuel's work : I wish to hell perfectionists like Alder would write longer songs, perhaps as much as a 14-minute suite, as Akkerman did with Lammy from the Tabernakel LP, providing a broader playground for thematic and compositional variations within a story-like atmosphere; such a prospect would be tantalizing indeed.

If the endless barrage of sappy and weak New Age solo guitar LPs that flooded the market years ago left you despairing of what the instrument and human hands were capable of, Cool Tunes Compilation will restore that crestfallen attitude to its properly beaming estate, but you might want to inquire about that other disc as well: it's pure dynamite!

Don Alder „Best of" – 2003




Canada's Don Alder plays acoustic fingerstyle guitar with a passion that has quickly earned him a reputation as Vancouver's "best kept little secret", fingering up some of the nastiest, naughty, wicked and wild fingerstyle acoustic guitar music you'll hear. His CD, The Best Of Don Alder, is loaded up with powerful, unpredictable acoustic instrumentals, which back up his well deserved reputation. Shimmering, propulsive playing is tempered by a keenly honed melodic sense, giving his music an appeal to groups beyond the technical fanatics. Regularly performing with the Duvateens, a Vancouver-area R&B/funk band, and as a solo acoustic artist, Alder will probably attract a lot more attention to his live gigs with this CD. Highly recommended.
An accomplished live performer, Don has toured in B.C. with blues, folk, pop, funk and country artists over the last 23 years. He has also worked as a professional studio musician and sound engineer. As a composer, Don has created original commissioned works for television, radio, theatre, albums, feature films, documentaries and videos. He was a member of the team that went around the world with Rick Hansen in the late 1980s on his Man In Motion Tour, which led Don to volunteer work with the Vancouver Adapted Music Society (VAMS). As a member of the VAMS performance band, Spinal Chord, Don helped break new ground in shaping perceptions, produced a CD and video and made numerous live and television appearances to promote and support music by the disabled.


Don has recently done master class work with some of the best acoustic fingerstyle artists in the world, including Don Ross and Peppino D'Agostino, Stephen King and Alex De Grassi. In September 2002, Don competed in the prestigious U.S. National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship in Winfield, Kansas.