Pairdown champions fingerstyle guitar with new album, tablature and blog | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pairdown champions fingerstyle guitar with new album, tablature and blog

When one chapter ends, another begins. After five years, Raymond Morin is winding down Sort Of Records, a Pittsburgh-based label releasing artists such as Darryl Fleming, David Bernabo and his own acoustic fingerstyle duo Pairdown. Now, he's blogging extensively about fingerstyle guitar music, which he calls "more satisfying than peddling rock records." 

The blog, Work & Worry ( teems with commentary written by Morin and fellow Pairdown guitarist David Leicht. Topics range from '60s Takoma LPs and the '70s British folkies to current labels such as Tompkins Square, Strange Attractors and Thrill Jockey. 

"The idea was to form a relationship with the international community of guitarists," Morin says. "We're interested in serious critique and analysis."

Leicht and Morin are reaching out to that niche with a new release called Petrifidelity, which features guitar tablature for the songs, all instrumentals except for "No Occupation." 

Tab books, Morin says, were once commonly inserted inside LPs, and it's how he learned to play fingerstyle pieces. "It's hard to learn by ear, because there's so much going on, so tablature gives you a leg up," he says. "You can't lay anything more bare than telling people how to play the songs themselves." 

From an instructional standpoint, Morin rates the book's difficulty as "intermediate," applying such techniques as hammer-ons, bends, slides, and artificial harmonics on "June" and "D, Putnam Strut." Fingerstyle beginners may find it a challenge, but the more experienced will breeze through the duets on either part.

Morin revels in the relative uniqueness of his duo with Leicht, citing a tendency of the modern scene to produce solo artists, from Jack Rose and M. Ward to the likes of virtuoso Andy McKee. A duo "requires a level of planning that the free-wheeling solo acts lack," says Leicht. "Our music is very premeditated because the parts lock so concisely."

Morin, who will tour North Carolina with Leicht in October, is explicit about continuing the tablature tradition. "We'll tab our stuff as long as it's instrumental, because why not? When I was on tour last month to Boston [without Leicht], I sent the book to two friends who played the duets," he says. "The books bring players together who don't just want to 'jam out' but actually share this [fingerstyle] interest."

Only 30 copies of Petrifidelity remain ("I gave some to important guitar people," says Morin), but Work & Worry still has a page accepting orders ($20). The duo's next Pittsburgh appearance will be on WRCT-FM's live show, at 9 p.m. Wed., Nov. 4.

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