Week 14: “The First Ride” by Don Ross

By the time I was 18, I thought I was getting pretty good at playing the guitar. I had started doing some fancy finger-picked stuff, and could barely contain my satisfaction at how cool I was.

Then someone played me this song. My first reaction was, “wow, those guys are pretty good”. When I was told that it was just one guy, recorded live with no overdubs, I realized that my coolness level needed serious re-evaluating.

Don Ross is a Canadian guitarist with some of the fastest fingers on the planet. This song isn’t actually one of his faster ones, and the version linked above is much slower than the version off his album, “Bearing Straight”, but if you ever see him live, you will be amazed. Bruce Cockburn has been quoted as saying, “Nobody does what Don Ross does with an acoustic guitar. He takes the corners so fast you think he’s going to roll, but he never loses control.”

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The guitar.

2. The guitar.

3. The guitar.

Sorry, but that’s really about the extent of it. But I should point out in particular the harmonics, which, in the bridge section about halfway through the song, rain down like little pellets from this man’s insane fingers. If you’re not familiar with what “harmonics” are, they are a type of playing in which you pluck a string with one hand while holding your finger on the string with the other hand just gently enough to let it ring without muting the string or holding it to the fret board. I can play a harmonic if I stare at my fingers, focus really hard, and do a couple of test-runs. Don Ross, apparently, does it in his sleep.

Recommended listening activity:

Riding your bike downhill.

Buy it here.