Release Date: June 5, 2020
Label: Real MusicWebsite
Chris Haugen is no stranger to success. He has released four albums before the latest release First Light. The list of collaborations and performances on his website is very impressive and reading that you come to realize you are listening to one of the finest six-string benders that are actively recording music.
Chris’s label Real Music says "Haugen's creativity abounds through a variety of guitars, Weissenborn, lap steel, and banjo combining to conjure flavors of India while Haugen’s countless hours with the ocean gently reveal some of surfing's allure."
That is one synopsis of a multitude you will likely hear and of course, I have my own to share. First and foremost, my love for instrumental music found great satisfaction listening to First Light. What happens a lot of time for me is the thought “This would sound so amazing on vinyl.” That is a format I grew up on and have been addicted to ever since, except for getting lost for several years with CDs. I had to add that because Chris’s music is so clean, pure, and it resonates with a deep and soulful sound and approach. His playing is superb.
The title track kicks things off and gets you in the groove. He is acoustically driven with a blend of roots, blues, folk, and everything else you could imagine an acoustic guitar can do. The slide playing is excellent as well, which gives it that bluesy feel and a sense of depth. I thought because it made such a big impression on me and drew me in, I had to add it to my NAMR Spotify Playlist.
“Distant Shores” was one of my favorites. The effects and layers of Haugen’s six-string are mesmerizing. Reading the one sheet provided with the music mentions how Chris does a deep dive into his 30 years of yoga and surfing and interprets all of that experience through his music. As you read that you can imagine him on the beach strumming away as the sun starts to pop out over the water’s horizon. Very much like his joyously beautiful album cover. That image tells the story, this is a man living his life and following his path. The beauty of that being so right is that he is generous enough to share his abundant talents with those of us in need of his healing and relaxing sounds. Count me amongst the needy!
There is something special about music like this. It comes from a place in the heart, its spiritual, and the person playing it has a god-given talent. I look at all musicians that way. The best part is having the time and place to take in all the sounds and become completely encapsulated in the music. It feels natural to me as I am that kind of listener. The music either finds me or I find it, it is kismet.
The final track is titled perfectly, “Path of Light.” After starting with “First Light” you end the album but he gives you a path to follow. It is the way it was meant to be. Although this is instrumental guitar music it most certainly finds its way into a new age sub-genre, which it belongs because of the meaning of the tracks and what the music accomplishes for the listener.
First Light will be enjoyed by a large cross section of listeners that date back to early Windham Hill label and artists like Alex De Grassi etc. I remember it all so well, so for my ears the recollection is fond and the present that much better thanks to Chris Haugen.
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
June 9, 2020
1. First Light 04:30
2. Waves 03:03
3. Peaceful Dream 03:30
4. Beyond 05:11
5. Fjord 03:35
6. Wanderlust 10:13
7. Path of Light 04:18