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Sam Pacetti is one who brings it all together. A fingerstyle guitar wizard. A deft songwriter, capable of haunting depth and wry humor in the space of one song. A impassioned and ecstatic vocalist, as well as a mesmerizing live performer, seamlessly melding head-spinning guitar pyrotechnics and raw emotion into one breathtaking package.
Pacetti represents a culmination of the best of the American and British traditions. His 1997 Waterbug debut, Solitary Travel, garnered critical raves. "This guy is very good, indeed," deadpanned the highly respected (and highly critical) UK magazine Folk Roots. And Dirty Linen, the influential US roots publication, opined, "Although the woods are full of young guitar virtuosos, few have developed the style, technique and artistic wisdom of Sam Pacetti. Solitary travel heralds the arrival of one of the most talented instrumentalists and composers to appear in acoustic music in a month of Sunday's."
Sam Pacetti grew up in North Florida, hardly known as a hotbed of either the folk tradition or musical innovation. At age 13 he found the music of both Chet Atkins and Merle Travis, profound influences on his early musical development. Then fate intervened shortly afterward in the person of Gamble Rogers, the legendary picker and raconteur from St. Augustine who took the young Pacetti under his wing. It was a time of astonishing musical and emotional growth. Pacetti and Rogers met and played weekly for a year, until tragically Rogers died while trying to save a drowning tourist caught in an undertow at Flagler Beach Florida. Though brief in their time together, Rogers was able to instill in Pacetti the importance of the folk process, the passing of music and oral tradition from teacher to student. Pacetti still counts Rogers as his most influential mentor.
Tradition and innovation neatly balance in Sam Pacetti's music, the whole infused by a relentless intelligence intent on musical and philosophical synthesis. Martin Simpson, Richard Thompson, Joni Mitchell and Merle Travis are touchstones to Pacetti, and while there are strong elements of the American primitive school of guitar wizardry throughout his work, there is a powerful raw emotionality evident as well - an earthy sensuality more reminiscent of a Greg Brown or a red-dirt blues master than of a musical academician.
Word has started to spread about Sam Pacetti. And as with anything truly innovative, it starts at the grassroots. You won't see Pacetti written up in People or Us. You won't hear his music on Top-40 radio. No, word is spreading about Sam Pacetti the way true innovation always does - through the grassroots. Through non-commercial radio and "specialty show" play. From tapes and CDs passed from friend to friend. At folk festivals and listening rooms. And, in the tradition stemming from the days of rent-raising parties in the Mississippi delta - and now carried on by music aficionados unable to find music that interest them within the mainstream.