Proving she has nothing to prove on This Bird Still Flies, meticulous Bay Area guitarist Mimi Fox uses her 11th recording as leader or co-leader to showcase her utter mastery of the acoustic instrument. Mixing five originals with standards, Beatles songs and a national ode, the 62-year-old guitarists' guitarist here takes care to let every nuance of fingerwork and dynamic control shine.
"Get Away Blues" opens the album brightly, Fox launching from a call-and-response motif into intricate single-note runs that lead naturally to double-stop punctuations and a swung chordal passage before the out-chorus. On Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa," Fox accompanies herself in the chord-melody style perfected by her mentor Joe Pass, finding moments in which to insert harmonically contrasting twangs.
"Blackbird" and "Day Tripper" seem as if they're old favorites of Fox's, as she expertly deconstructs the former and goes low on the latter to exploit its classic bass line. She employs harmonics, percussive tapping, suspenseful picking and a rubato time sense to "Textures"; "You Don't Know" goes through mood shifts, from sorrowful to blithe. Her titular composition also is multi-dimensional, second guitarist Andy Timmons serving mostly as an extension of her hands (does he take the final improvisation?). On the multi-tracked "Against The Grain" she expands from folksiness by plan, virtuosically. "America The Beautiful" bespeaks majesty with hints of concern, if not regret, and leaves us wondering: What next?