excerpt from "AND THE BEAT GOES ON"
By MIKE BARRIS
Special to the Press
Published in the Asbury Park Press 5/30/04
The case that contains Frank Fotusky's Gibson J-35 acoustic guitar is emblazoned with a painting of Popeye the Sailor,
swinging his knotted fist.
Inspired by Popeye's motto, "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam," Fotusky declares his dedication to vintage fingerstyle
acoustic blues in the words that come out of Popeye's mouth: "I play what I play and that's all that I play."
Fotusky, more than most blues and jazz musicians, defines the term, "niche artist." He plays solo Piedmont-style acoustic
blues, keeping alive the sophisticated and syncopated fingerpicking styles established by such 'East Coast' masters as the
Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Blake and John Jackson.
"I play what I play because I don't play Jimmy Buffett," Fotusky says of the Popeye cartoon on his guitar case.
"That's my choosing, because there are a whole bunch of guys out there who do it and do it better than I do."
Fotusky's music definitely is not for mere pub strummers. With off-beat rhythms and jazz-like harmonic complexity, it is
tricky and demanding, perhaps as demanding as that of the classical guitar.
A former student of fingerstyle guitar aces Roy Bookbinder and Paul Geremia, Fotusky, 40, can fingerpick such ragtime blues
songs as "Winey Boy Blues," "San Francisco Bay Blues" and "Teasin' the Frets," with great, clean technique. Ultimately, the
Beachwood resident reminds you that a lone acoustic guitar can manage quite well on its own, functioning as a sort of small
piano. That point might shock guitarists accustomed to augmenting their sound with electronic effects and additional musicians.
The relative narrowness of his specialty, in a rock-dominated era, limits the number of places he can play. As a result,
he travels extensively to gigs. He made his J-35 sing last spring before an appreciative, if rain-drenched crowd, at the Red
Bank Jazz & Blues Festival. This summer, his schedule also will include stops at blues festivals in Riverhead, N.Y. (on
Long Island), Syracuse, N.Y., and Herndon, Va., as well as clubs in upstate New York, New Hampshire and Maine.
He'll also play a number of Shore dates. His Web site, www.fotusky.com, will have the details, he says.
"The jazz and blues scene is great around here," says Fotusky, who has been playing professionally for 15 years. "I just
don't think there's an awareness of it."