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Dave Beegle’s Ax Is Sharp

Behold the world-class guitarist behind Acoustic Mayhem.

Dave Beegle is a guitar virtuoso by all accounts but his own. Although widely regarded as one of the best players by some of the best, Beegle humbly deflects such praise, saying he often views his skill with the guitar as sleight of hand — so to speak.

"Because I've taught so much, I have a pretty good understanding of things intellectually," he declares. "But I don't really think about that when I'm playing. I guess a lot of people would consider me fairly technically proficient. But I'm just fully aware of all of my weaknesses. I think I'm okay technically, but sometimes I think I'm just kind of a hack who fools people pretty good."

Right. And plenty of folks still believe in the Easter Bunny.

Dave Beegle is a homegrown guitar hero.
Dave Beegle is a homegrown guitar hero.

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Greeley Arts Picnic, 1:45 p.m. Saturday, July 28, Lincoln Park, 651 10th Avenue, Greeley, free, 1-970-350-9454; Earthworks 2007 Gala, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 28, Denver Merchandise Mart, 451 East 58th Avenue, $50, 1-970-416-8700.

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Truth is, the soft-spoken, unassuming, 45-year-old Loveland-bred guitarist is a guitar god among guitar gods. Vaunted six-stringer Phil Keaggy once proclaimed Beegle "one of the most creative and accomplished guitarists I've met" — and then went on to list him as one of his favorite players. That's like hearing Tiger Woods marvel at another golfer's swing.

In the mid-'90s, a writer with Guitarmagazine referred to Beegle as a one-man guitar army in the same league as Jimmy Page and Brian May. And that was back when he was still devoting most of his time to Fourth Estate, his northern Colorado-based instrumental prog-rock trio. Although that band still performs from time to time in various configurations, Beegle has shifted his focus toward his equally expressive and compelling acoustic-based endeavors in recent years.

"Just as an artist," he explains, "it was a lot easier to get out and do a wider variety of different types of performance situations and sell CDs than if you're a three-piece, loud, instrumental, progressive hard-rock band. There's not a huge market — at least in America — to sustain doing much playing and whatnot. So the acoustic thing has kind of taken off and become, sort of artistically, my main expression."

Fortunately, Beegle has another ardent champion: his brother Morris, who founded Hapi Skratch Records specifically to give the elder Beegle a vehicle to deliver his music. And over the years, Dave Beegle has augmented his Fourth Estate catalogue with three exceptional solo releases: 2000's A Year Closer, 2003's Beyond the Desert and last year's fantastic live DVD, Acoustic Mayhem. "As a musician, I think my art form is to incorporate a little more of the progressive-rock element into the acoustic realm," Beegle says. "With the live acoustic band, having three percussionists and three guitarists, I'm just kind of bringing more of a progressive-rock energy to it, making it as loud as I can on an acoustic guitar."

The most shining example of this can be heard on the Mayhem DVD, recorded live at Loveland's Rialto Theater. The overall performance is top-notch, but true to form, Beegle prefers that folks give an ear to what he's playing rather than how well he's playing it.

"Really, what I kind of shoot for is emotion, expression and sound," he explains. "I remember one specific time when somebody came up after a Fourth Estate gig, and they were very complimentary. They were like, 'You guys are a great technical band.' I'm like, 'What do you mean by that?' 'Oh, you're just so technically great.' I'm just like, 'And that's it?' That's not saying much. They were complimenting us, but to me, it was like, 'Hmm...that's not what I want to be known as.' I know a lot of people who are technically good or intellectual, but their music doesn't move me at all. For stuff I like, I'd rather listen to Neil Young thrash about than a lot of really technical people. I really have an appreciation for all kinds of artists who have something to say."

People like Kurt Cobain, for instance.

"During the whole '80s shred-guitar thing — I think Van Halen kind of opened the doors for that, and I was a huge Van Halen fan — I got really tired of that stuff," Beegle recalls. "I had some friends and people that I was gigging around with, and they would just rip on Nirvana when they came out. I was like, 'Nirvana's the best band I've heard in years.'

"When they came out, I was like, 'Oh, my God, this is so much better than all the crap that was coming out.' Even though there were some really good players, I got really tired of it. I didn't want to stop trying to pursue excellence on my instrument. But at the same time, I was like, 'These guys are great, but they're not saying anything. These guys don't know how to play their instruments that well, and they're saying a lot.' If I was going to err on either side, I'd rather be a guy who's more of a hack who's saying something."

Considering that Beegle's foundation was poured on the music of Black Sabbath, it's not such a stretch for him to prefer Nirvana's simplistic approach to that of many of the Revlon ambassadors who preceded the act. Beegle began playing piano at the age of five, then took up guitar after he heard Birmingham's notorious bad boys.

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