Peter Frampton: Hummingbird In A Box

Half-an-hour of style and substance from a guitar great.

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Like Peter Frampton’s 2006 Grammy-winning album Fingerprints, this 29-minute mini-album was co-written and co-produced with guitarist Gordon Kennedy. It comprises seven songs (of which only one, The One In 901, is instrumental) written for the Cincinnati Ballet.

But Hummingbird In A Box is no bizarro career detour, more like a coda to Frampton’s most recent solo release, 2010’s criminally overlooked Thank You Mr Churchill. The songs are all based on acoustic guitar but utilise drums (mostly by Neil Young sideman Chad Cromwell), bass and an electric solo where appropriate.

Best are the title track (acoustic solo), ballad Heart To My Chest, and The Promenade’s Retreat which begins with a repeated deftly played hypnotic figure that switches suddenly to a vintage Frampton refrain.

The album ends all too soon with Norman Wisdom, an old-style jazz shuffle that at first seems no more than a slice of whimsy, but is about Frampton at his best: mixing Clapton and Young by blending a rich mixture of virtuoso guitar, honey-sweet melodies and an aching, high-register vocal that fits perfectly.