In Music

Milwaukee guitarists rock for charity

Some Milwaukee musicians don't just live the rock and roll lifestyle. This season, they too, are giving back to the community with the release of "Will Play Guitar For Food," a compilation of guitarists gathering together for charity.

All the proceeds of the album go directly to Heifer International, a group dedicated to the purpose of educating people about charitable and planned giving. The album's goal is to help feed people and make them self-sufficient in Milwaukee and around the world. With fund raising help from Milwaukee's own Growing Power, the concept of creating a benefit album became a reality.

The brainchild for this endeavor is Charles Rathmann. Thanks to his networking at a guitar contest, Rathmann was able to meet several other talented musicians that were willing to lend a hand in the creation of this disc.

"I found myself a few years ago in a place in life where my guitar skills, due to my studies with Jimmy Crimmins, had grown immensely," said Rathmann. "But for me, playing in bars and clubs just didn't hold a lot of appeal. For me, music was more spiritual and artistic. I was feeling creatively frustrated."

Fueled by frustration, Rathmann searched for a way that his music could help people. After a meeting with a couple organizers from Heifer International and some friends, the idea hit him.

"I have since compared it to one of those holiday paper weights, the ones you shake and all the glitter starts flying around inside and looks like snow," said Rathmann. "And then when it sits still long enough, the glitter falls to the bottom and you can clearly see the winter scene. Once I sat still and let all the debris in my mind settle, I could see the real picture."

Since then he has spent the last three years trying to get this album put together with the sole purpose of helping others in need. Working with artists like Jimmy Crimmins (Green Bay), Perfecto Arturo DeCastro (Philippines), P. Anthony Burgess (Australia), and Scott Lerner (New Jersey) and Francisco Mestre (France), Rathmann was able to pull in talent from all over the world.

"It was exciting just to get to know these guys, and to produce a disc with them was incredible," said Rathmann. "The really intimidating thing for me though, was doing a duet with my teacher and guitar guru, Jimmy Crimmins. It is really an honor to be on the same disc, much less the same song with Jimmy."

The album was created as a collaborative effort, as each artist added solos or whatever else their imagination felt the song needed. While the album is labeled as jazz and blues, "Will Play Guitar For Food" is a blend of smooth, exotic jazz songs like "Legato Grotto," to another tune that rips guitar riffs from "Route 66."

"It was really fun to send tracks to various players and what they would come up with, to see how their unique sound would augment a piece," said Rathmann.

The man responsible for taking pieces of recorded material from numerous countries and mixing and mastering it all into one disc, is Eric Swanson of Prime Productions Studios.

"The cost of associate producer Eric Swanson's time would have cost us a fortune if he wasn't my best friend and college roommate," said Rathmann. "His audio production genius was essential to making this all work."

"Will Play Guitar For Food" costs $15 and is available at several Milwaukee locations including Exclusive Company, Lincoln Music, Brass Bell Music and Cream City Music. It is available online at cdbaby.com.

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