Gayle Ellett
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"Fernwood is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalists Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett. The two have scored numerous film soundtracks both together and individually, and it shows. The songs are wonderfully melodic and emotionally direct, the diverse instruments are expertly layered, and dynamics are an essential aspect of the orchestrations. Acoustic stringed instruments constructed of wood predominate, and timbre and sonority suggest place and idiom as strongly as the actual compositional structures. 
Middle Eastern, Asian, African, and European motifs are masterfully interwoven with Americana to form a luscious yet rootsy imaginary idiom that is intriguing, uplifting, and at once familiar and exotic."

"The backwoods of American music may be the last hidden realm of exotica left in the world. Brian Eno collaborator Leo Abrahams, Beck producer Tom Rothrock, ambient artist Kaya Project and jazz guitarist Bill Frisell have all tapped into a bucolic Americana, from country to rural blues, Appalachian banjo music to bluegrass fiddle cadences. But few have embraced this concept more than Fernwood, a band led by multi-instrumentalists Gayle Ellett and Todd Montgomery. They play stringed instruments from around the world whether it's a dilruba or banjo, sitar or guitar. 
On their debut Almeria, they established the template for a global Americana music, mixing banjo and bouzouki, sitar and mandolin into a soundscape that's as sweet as a country fiddle tune and as beguiling as a raga. In a way, they're the American version of Iceland's Amiina, creating a gentle, slightly surreal sound like a music box with Indian tines being cranked in the Ozarks. Sangita takes a while to work its charms. Melodies are embedded in an intricate interplay of strings, like the strumming mandolins of "Mistral," which are topped by a melody that alternates between sitar and fiddle. Indian ambiences, Appalachian picking and an elegant European nostalgia converge on "Cimarron," which sounds like a Nino Rota soundtrack for Fellini, played by a bluegrass band. Sangita is like an undiscovered musical tributary, a meeting of the Ganges River with the Swanee River. It's a CD full of sonic details and plaintive melodies." 

"This month's Spotlight is a beautiful acoustic based track featuring a combination of instruments that we rarely hear. While the writing, arranging and performances are of the highest order, it is the blend of the various instruments in the mix that really makes "Open Seas" something special to our ears. Gayle and Todd have skillfully managed to combine numerous stringed instruments, many with competing frequency ranges, into an open, airy mix that leaves space for each individual sound source, while maintaining a full cohesive feel, free of artifact and digital "nasties." Relax and enjoy! Well done! 
Highly Recomended"

"Fernwood’s (Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett) music is, according to the CD's back cover, "Played by hand on instruments made out of wood." The list of the album's instruments includes sitar, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, organ, upright bass, and many other exotic string instruments from all over the globe. Sangita’s 12 songs display influences from disparate cultures and heritages: Appalachia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India and other ports of call. You may hear a snatch of bluegrass, a hint of blues, or even an Indian raga. The genre-bending fusion presented on Sangita is reminiscent of banjo player Akira Satake's Cooler Heads Prevail, another fine example of defying world beat conventions."

“All music played by hand, on instruments made out of wood,” says the back cover of Sangita. Fernwood conjure up an image of a Sitar-toting Chinese cowboy wandering through the Appalachian mountains, sailing the seven seas, and fighting dragons. The music isn’t as confused as my imagination, but it is evocative, and much more cinematic than most world music out there.”

“A really nice, rather amazing CD of instrumental pieces done on a wide assortment of acoustic, mainly stringed instruments. The songs are complex and thoughtful enough that they don’t venture into New Age drivel, and the musicians, Gayle Ellet and Todd Montgomery, are obviously extremely talented, but use their talents at the service of the compositions, rather than showing off their chops. It’s subtle, but it gets under your skin.”

"Fernwood is a musical entity of two musicians who feel each other's essence for such cooperation well. This acoustic cooperation is rather descriptive in a very moody way, with pickings and notes in different rhythmical speeds, spinning around, with some lovely tunes. The listing in my 'acidfolk' section does not completely do justice to the release. Especially young people often tend to look for something with a hype factor, with "weird" or strange or modern associations, while the mature composer also recognises better things that last longer, or that reflect harmonic balances. For record companies, harmonic results are also harder to sell or categorise, when the music does not follow any of the mainstream tendencies. Fernwood's music reflects harmonic pulses and melodies, arranged by the inspirations of a duo playing together with interactions and melted ideas of compositions, and a whole diversity of instruments." 
"Recommended!" (Belgium)

"Californians Gayle Ellett and Todd Montgomery bring a mastery of instruments ranging from bouzoukis and sitars to harmonium, oud, Chinese ruan and mandolin, to a series of captivating original compositions. Each piece has a cinematic feel but is complete in itself, the sounds all slot satisfyingly into place, and the album makes a cohesive, diverse and very rewarding listen."
fROOTS (Folk Roots) Magazine (Ireland)

"Veramente bello e rilassante questo progetto realizzato dal duo Todd Montgomery e Gayle Ellett (più famoso per essere membro dei Djam Karet). La peculiarità di questo progetto sta principalmente nell'uso esclusivo (o quasi... ogni tanto spunta fuori un piano Fender Rhodes) di strumenti acustici in legno. Troviamo, quindi, molti strumenti tradizionali abbastanza inusuali per un progetto di musica moderna. I due non si fan scrupolo di usare sitar, mandolini, bouzuki di origine greca o irlandese, oltre la chitarra, ma troviamo spazio anche per uno strumento come l'harmonium. E' logico che l'uso di questa strumentazione, a parte la nota di colore, non è il motivo principale per il quale mi ha colpito questo cd. I brani proposti sembrano fatti apposta per accompagnare film o documentari (se avete presente il programma Linea Blu della Rai avete capito a cosa mi riferisco). La melodia è l'aspetto più importante delle dodici tracce proposte in questo disco. Siamo quasi in territori new age (molte soluzioni sonore ricordano molto gli ultimi lavori degli Shadowfax) e world music. Il bouzuki è lo strumento più usato e sembra strano che un gruppo che ha la casa che si affaccia sull'oceano sia così influenzato dalla musica mediterranea e mediorientale senza mai dimenticare le radici sonore statunitensi. Non deve meravigliarci, perciò, il fatto di trovare pezzi bluegrass vicino a brani che sembrano usciti da una raccolta di musica etnica greca. Ne viene fuori un quadro sonoro che, anche se ti ricorda mille cose alla fine ha una sua identità di fondo. Assomiglia agli Shadowfax ma i Fernwood non suonano così new age. Può ricordarti qualcosa dell'ultimo Mauro Pagani, ma non è un disco world music. Può ricordarti certe cose dello Steve Hackett più acustico, ma anche in questo caso le soluzioni sonore sono diverse. "Almeria" è un disco che ogni volta che lo ascolti ti lascia qualcosa in più: una nota, un accordo, una sensazione diversa. E' bello sapere che ogni tanto si trova ancora qualcuno che con la propria musica ti riconcilia col mondo circostante."

"Majestätisch in ihrer Ruhe und Demut, kraftvoll in ihrer Sanftmut, inspirierend in ihrer Bescheidenheit und Einfachheit. Dass Instrumentalmusik, die unter gleichsam esoterischen Aspekten wie ,,handgemacht" und ,,Instrumente ausschließlich aus Holz" produziert und vermarktet wird, nicht nach Frömmelei riecht - wer hätte das gedacht? Dafür stehen Gayle Ellett und Todd Montgomery offenbar einfach zu fest auf dem Boden der Tatsachen ihres heimatlichen Malibu: Wenn sie nicht alle Arten von Gebrauchsmusik für Filme oder Computerspiele produzieren oder sich Progressive Rock, Folk oder Jazz spielen, gehen sie gern surfen oder Drachenfliegen. Vielleicht kommt der ausgeprägte Sinn für Organik und Harmonie, der das Debütalbum ihres Fernwood-Projektes durchzieht ja aus dieser Art Erdung in der wirklichen Welt? Sanft bauen sich die vor allem auf Bouzoukis, Sitars, Mandolinen, Gitarren, Bässen und dergleichen gespielten Stücke meist auf, schwellen gelegentlich wie Philip Glass' ,,Koyaanisqatsi" oder “Powaqqatsi” ein Stück an und vergehen wieder. Dabei haben sie einen Sinn für Rhythmik, der sie über Geflirre erhebt, einen Sinn für Dynamik, Struktur und Proportion. 
Und natürlich sind auch Instrumente wie ein Rhodes Piano mit am Start - aus Holz? Kleine Lüge gelegentlich gehört dazu."
FOLKER! Magazine (Germany)

"Dai Djam Karet ad un'ipnotica world music: l'eccellente esordio del duo 
califoniano. Quando parliamo di Djam Karet vengono in mente le tempeste d'elettricità sollevate con celebri jam, oppure le oasi sterminate di dilatazione elettronica, ma anche le episodiche deviazioni acustiche. Gayle Ellett - chitarrista della storica band - con Fernwood intende approfondire proprio quella direzione unplugged, in un progetto che non è un semplice "staccare la spina". Nato con Todd montgomery, Fernwood è una dimensione a parte, in cui con soli strumenti di legno del bacino mediterraneo (bouzuki, oud, mandolino etc.) il duo rievoca percorsi chitarristici tipici degli anni '70 (Renbourn e Grossman, Loy e Altomare)."Almeria" è un disco profondamente calato in un'atmosfera mediterranea e marina: un susseguirsi di ballate dal sapore magico, dagli intrecci chitarristici con sitar, oud, su tappeti di fender rhodes e harmonium ("Hungarian Holiday" è un gioiellino, difficile immaginare che sia il frutto di due americani), brani evocativi come "Open seas" e "Makena", la travolgente "Ruidoso". E' un excursus libero, aperto, che profuma anche di California anni '60 (vedi "Crow", quasi ciclica nel suo respiro): d'altronde il duo ha registrato tra Malibu e Topanga, assorbendo dunque certe suggestioni locali, le stesse che nutrivano un Garcia, un Kaukonen, un Cipollina. Non sarebbe male vederli in un ideale concerto con Tito Rinesi, il più "arabo" dei nostri compositori. Disco estatico e impregnato di malìa, sfiora solo in alcuni frangenti la ripetitività e la noia ma raggiunge il suo obiettivo. Il duo è già al lavoro per un secondo lp, nel frattempo collabora ad alcune produzioni cinematografiche, grazie a questa musica così gravida di visioni, di colori, di passione."

"Using only instruments made of wood, Todd Montgomery and Djam Karet's Gayle Ellett blend Old-World and contemporary musical styles on their new all-acoustic project Fernwood. This colorful sonic palette results in Almeria, a remarkably cohesive and compelling debut record. Peaceful but never dull... the duo's sophisticated arrangements and deft touch on a variety of instruments bring songs with vivid titles like "Open Seas" and "Hungarian Holiday" to life." 
"Progressive" in the purest sense of the term." 

"Fernwood is a new project by the composer team of Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett and Almeria is their debut album. Gayle has appeared on more than 65 CDs and is one of the mainstays of Djam Karet. Todd is a specialist in Irish and American music, having played on the soundtrack of the movie "The Veronica Guerin Story". The concept behind this album should be enough to tempt any lover of acoustic music to click straight across to CDBaby and grab a copy of this album for a mere $12. The idea is beautiful in its simplicity: All the music is played by hand, on instruments made out of wood. The exhaustive mix of instruments is what separates this album from any acoustic instrumental record I've ever heard. The instruments are used in different combinations across the 12 songs. As a result there is a such a wide range of sounds, textures and energies that each stands as a wholly individual listening experience. As a listener I was kept enthralled, as each track opened new possibilities. An enchanting, beautiful and captivating aural pleasure."
Conclusion: 9 out of 10 

“Following up their DPRP recommended Almeria album, the talented duo of Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett continue their instrumental explorations on hand-played instruments made out of wood. Might be a bit limiting you think? Well think again! I've honestly not heard of some of the instruments these two, ostensibly guitarists, play. Banjo, mandolin, upright bass, bouzouki (Irish and Greek!), fiddle, harmonium, organ and piano are amongst the more commonplace whilst sitar and oud add a touch of the exotic. But then how about dilruba, ruan and tarang (two different ones)? Or cumbus, dotara, tambura, swarmandal or grobijen? There is a whole orchestra of stringed instruments represented on this album! The orchestral metaphor is apt, as the music instantly reminded me of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, albeit one from a bit further east. Aptly described by the nationally syndicated US radio show Echoes as Global Americana Chamber Music, the album is all about blending the different sounds of the instruments. Sure, it is easy to identify the familiar sitar, guitar, banjo etc. but the music would pale somewhat without the more exotic accompaniments that fill the spaces. It is ultimately near impossible to describe the music as there are elements of American bluegrass, Indian ragas, country jigs, rock grooves and more. The skill is in how it is all blended together to give a completely harmonious feel.
Ellett, better known amongst our readership for his electrical guitar wizardry in Djam Karet, explains the rationale behind the band as: "We’re trying to make music that’s overtly beautiful and not be afraid of that and make music that doesn’t show off our technical skills or how fast we can play". Methinks he is being rather too humble as although you won't find any blistering runs up and down the octaves, the technical expertise required to play all of these instruments as well as the musical vision to combine everything in such a wonderful manner is quite breathtaking. An enthralling and charming 50 minutes of gentle acoustic music that is both stimulating and relaxing. If Simon Jeffes were alive today I'm sure he would be a fan and would have probably immediately co-opted the duo into his orchestra.
And yes, the results are rather beautiful.”
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

"Iza sastava / projekta Fernwood stoje dva iskusna i prekaljena muzicara - Todd Montgomery i Gayle Ellett. Njih dvojica su idejni pokretaci svega sto se u muzicko-koncepcijskom smislu naslo na albumu "Almeria". Naime, kompletan album odsviran je i snimljen putem drvenih akusticnih instrumenata, cime je postignut zeljeni efekat. Postignuta je tako atmosfera koja vesto kombinuje svetonazore "drevnih" starijih vremena i novijih ethno uticaja, a ona je evidentna preko svih ponudjenih tema sa izdanja.
Album je snimljen u Malibu i Topanga (California, USA), pod producentskim nazorima pomenutog dvojca i Wayne Yentis. 12 tema i skoro 48 minuta muzike obiluju cestim promenama i prelazima u razlicite ambijentalne i ethno vode i slike koje se stvaraju preslusavanjem materijala vode do razlicitih strana sveta, od Mediterana, preko ruskih ali i blisko-istocnih prostora. Todd i Gayle su vesto i znalacki u skladnu celinu ukomponovali razlicite instrumente kao sto su mandolina, irski buzuki, sitar, harmonijum. To pokazuje ne samo njihovo veliko pomenuto iskustvo, vec i izuzetno dobro snalazenje u jednom ovako ponudjenom muzickom konceptu. "Almeria" je izdanje koje svakako zavredjuje vasu paznju, te ukoliko vam se ukaze prilika, ne oklevajte da se upoznate sa muzikom benda Fernwood."
Rated: 9/10 (Serbia)

"What the two pioneers of cinematic sound Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett offer in their recent release, Almeria is a truly stunning and unique array of soundscapes in a "pan-cultural" approach to composition. Self described as "pastoral and psychedelic," their style blends a traditional American acoustic sound with starkly contrasting elements of global influence, including Irish, Eastern European, Indian, and Middle Eastern. It's cowboy, it's jazz, it's Oriental. It's "no-pressure" art that does not extrovertly "sell," it casually assimilates and charms. Absolutely enchanting, a brilliant mix of interesting textures and layers of exotic acoustic timbers. A tantalizing taste of otherworldly aural delight." 

"California's Fernwood take their musical cues from all over the world and utilize a wide variety of acoustic stringed instruments from the same places to produce their exquisitely crafted gentle acoustic pieces that conjure up images of travel through far off lands, which sound as though they're from everywhere and nowhere at the same time, just a melting pot of wonderful acoustic exotica. The music is melodic, carefully arranged, always holds your attention and is at all times accessable; it is also evident that it has been recorded with a lot of care too, all the musical layers and detail shine through and the instruments occupy their own spaces which is no mean feat considering the complexity of some of the musical arrangements.
Reviewing individual tracks is almost impossible, for to attempt to describe the delicate song structures and to try and guess which of the long list of instruments have been used would be a case of this reviewer doing the whole album an injustice. There are no individual standout tracks, because to highlight some at the expense of others would be so very wrong. If you can imagine yourself in a warm and beautiful land, where there is time to relax, take in scenery and live life at a slower pace than you might be accustomed to, then this is the music that would be playing from somewhere nearby providing a mesmerizing soundtrack to the whole experience. This is a beautiful album and is wholeheartedly recommended." 

“Todd Montgomery e Gayle Ellett riprovano per la seconda volta, a distanza di due anni, aconquistare il mondo con il loro progetto multietnico. Questo "Sangita"riprende il discorso che sembrava essere concluso con il precedente lavoro "Almeria". Logicamente il fattore novità si perde e ci troviamo di fronte acomposizioni che risultano meno interessanti, anche se impeccabili da un punto di vistoesecutivo, rispetto al fortunato esordio. La formula è sempre la stessa: usare solostrumenti acustici, nella maggior parte dei casi fatti esclusivamente di legno,provenienti da diverse parti del mondo. Il risultato è una miscela di melodie etniche mischiate a sonorità acustichea noi molto più familiari. Rispetto al disco d’esordio siè provato ad estendere il numero degli strumenti acustici impiegati e nelle dodici trace che compongono questo "Sangita" è possibile ascoltare bouzuki greci e irlandesi, sitar, oud, dilruba, harmonium, ruan oltre a violini e chitarre rigorosamente acustiche. Considerando i protagonisti (ricordiamo che Gayle Ellett fa parte dei Djam Karet), le composizioni son sempre costruite molto bene e risultano in ogni modo interessanti, anche se i non amanti di determinate sonorità troveranno questo lavoro alla lunga abbastanza noioso e stucchevole. L’uso del sitar nelle prime composizioni ci porta verso atmosfere indiane che sfumano verso lidi più mediterranei con lo scorrere del minutaggio del cd. Il tutto viene condito dalla tradizione Americana che va ad unire queste sonorità a quelle più tradizionali del bluegrass e del country statunitense.
“Sangita” da questo punto di vista riesce ad unire vari modi di intendere la musica in un unico linguaggio multiculturale. Atmosfere rilassate, melodie ariose che forse indurranno alcuni verso alte vette meditazionali altri purtroppo verso sonni altrettanto profondi.
Le composizioni più interessanti di questo lavoro sono senz’altro “Ring’s waltz”, il brano dalle atmosfere più americane, grazie all’uso del banjo, ”Mistral” che ricorda qualcosa del Peter Gabriel più multietnico, “Sargoza” che sembra uscita da un qualsiasi disco del catalogo Windham Hill e “Kestrel”, dove il linguaggio sonoro proveniente dall’Andalusia si unisce a quella americano e asiatico. Disco come il precedente adattissimo per una colonna sonora di un documentario naturalistico o per un programma televisivo dello stesso stampo. Se non conoscete questo progetto vi troverete davanti ad un gruppo che riesce in ogni brano a mettere sfumature sonore che non si trovano molto semplicemente in altri lavori dello stesso genere. Chi ha amato "Almeria" amerà anche questo “Sangita”, ma se ci si aspetta da un disco sempre qualcosa di diverso forse rimarrà deluso. Per appassionati del genere.”
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