The debut instrumental album from Vladimir Maisiuk, Fretwalk, is an eleven song affair with a widely varied sound, virtuosity running throughout, and a tight focus. Maisiuk has a considerable musical history in both the studio and concert, but this release represents the biggest treatment yet for his talents. He has a widespread musical style placing a tremendous emphasis on creating atmosphere and invoking emotion. The guitar is the dominant instrument, naturally, on Fretwalk, but Maisiuk incorporates a number of subtle elements alongside the six string to help flesh the songs out further. There isn’t a single example of filler to be heard on Fretwalk and Maisiuk brings a strong sense of identity to the performances while still retaining a highly accessible quality. His latest single “Summer Thrills” puts an exclamation point on this work, but Fretwalk certainly provides us with the most comprehensive look at this musical artist. Despite his skill level, the accessibility imparts a strong degree of commerciality that never relies on pandering to the audience for their attention.
“Valley of Dreams” is one of the most progressively minded tracks on Fretwalk and an excellent opener. Maisiuk’s guitar playing wears some clear influences, but scales completely idiosyncratic heights at times, and riding lyrical tides uniquely his own. There is some percussion and keyboard work going on during this performance, but the guitar playing is the key. His penchant for crafting musical landscapes filled with enormous amounts of color makes one of its biggest impressions with the track “Pilgrim”. The guitar playing manifests an even strong personality here than before and the track definitely takes a much more traditional slant, but an abiding characteristic of the running order is a consistency of style that few instrumental performers can duplicate. There’s an understated Arabic flavor influencing the direction of “Desert Morning” and its strictly acoustic approach is one of the best examples on Fretwalk of Maisiuk’s diversity. “Mountains” is one of the album’s greatest points and ends up being a showcase for Maisiuk to indulge his ambition. He does more in the three minute fifty second running time than most musicians can accomplish with twice the time.
“Driving Away” continues the hot streak and has a grander, albeit different, air. It’s even shorter than the aforementioned track and once again underscores Maisiuk’s skills with writing music that takes up a lot of imaginative space. There are certainly a few pastoral, slightly New Agey, cuts on the album like “Forest Rain”. Maisiuk shows his musical chops consistently on each song and the fluidity he demonstrates with moving back and forth between acoustic and electric instruments is close to eye-popping. “Memories” is, somewhat, reminiscent of the earlier numbers “Mountains” and “Driving Away”, but it reaches higher emotional peaks than those songs. The album’s penultimate song, “Long Day”, is a surprisingly artful blues that rates as one of Maisiuk’s finest moments on Fretwalk. It’s the album’s final full length song, but no one should ignore the short one minute thirty six second bookend “Beautiful Eyes”. It’s his best moment on acoustic guitar and brings the album to a gorgeous and slightly sentimental conclusion. Vladimir Maisiuk’s Fretwork is masterful at eliciting emotion from listeners.