The first time I heard Gutpuppet – not a long time ago – I was pleasantly surprised; now I’m hooked. The third album from the duo of Scot Ray and Bill Barrett is another nail in the coffin of dead-end blues, the demonstration that, if we’re lucky enough, heaven-made acoustic music enters our humble garden one way or another. Scot Ray, who plays “dobro, cumbus, 6 & 12 string slide guitar and 22-string chaturangui” (check his solo CD “Rumi”), is a sensible master of the objective sliding truth and I wouldn’t hesitate to compare him to players on the same level of Ry Cooder and Sonny Landreth. He’s a diversified velvet-touch fingerstylist whose evolved phrasing fuses past and future seamlessly, a true joy to hear – and not only for guitarists. Bill Barrett, as I already mentioned reviewing his work with Steuart Liebig’s Mentones, is the Allan Holdsworth of the chromatic harmonica, and let it be known that I consider Holdsworth light years ahead of any other guitarist. His instrument has never sounded so “belonging” in such disparate contexts and genres: Barrett catches you relaxed and stings your soul with heartbreaking cries, then invites you for a ride around both Eastern and Western syntactic macrocosms, all the while interspersing his playing with gun-cotton phrasing and mind-twisting, technically impossible triumphs. All this from a guy who, having seen his photo on the CD cover, I would love as a close neighbour (provided that he comes every night to my house and plays, plays, plays). Need I say more? “Gutpuppet 3” is a healthy dose of optimism in a dying world of sterile pyrotechnics. Make it yours – and the rest of their output, too.