Posts Tagged ‘Fingerpicked Guitar’

J.R. Bohannon

Emerging from the synth heavy confines of Ancient Ocean, a name he’s worked under for the better part of the last decade, J.R. Bohannon emerges from the blistered chrysalis of ambient noise for a record that’s imbued with a crystal-clear brand of fingerpicked folk. Dusk sees the artist opening into a verdant sound that pulls together threads from the Takoma school, bluegrass’ earthiness and cadence and some more experimental touches that throw him into the mix with Evan Caminiti and Scott Tuma. Bohannan has a way with space, making these solo pieces ring with a free-formed sunshine that feels like the walls of the studio don’t exist. If it weren’t for the complete quiet these could almost conceivably be captured in the field, smells of lightly rotted barn wood and day lilies on the air.

For the most part Bohannon makes the journey on Dusk alone, but he pulls in acclaimed drummer Greg Fox for the final, twisting number, “The Sorcerer’s Hand.” Here, Bohannon strays from some of the blissful themes of the album, diving from the melted sunlight streaks of the album’s title track into a world of secrets and paranoia. The track acts as a chapter unto itself at the end of the record, feeling like the sweeping, gorgeous tones of the previous six tracks were a pre-amble of another life before the darkened doom and hidden desires that threaten to shatter the peace as we leave the record. Altogether and outstanding debut from Bohannon and a new voice in instrumental guitar.




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Itasca – “Only A Traveler”

A hushed and verdant track from the rapidly approaching new Itasca album lands today and the accompanying video nicely frames it in a faded frame of Western mountains and natural ease. The last time Kayla Cohen was lurking around these parts it was on a low-key cassette of mostly instrumentals, but with Spring on the way next week she offers a proper follow up to her 2016 album Open To Chance. The song reclines in the sun, autumnal in sprit but with a California calm that means Autumn isn’t icing anyone just yet. Cohen laces the track with strings and her usual burble of guitar, giving this one more emotional heft than your average folk fingerpicker. This one should definitely be on your radar in the coming weeks. Spring is out 11/1 on Paradise of Bachelors.



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Lake Mary & The Ranch Family Band

“Sun Dogs” is a gorgeous introduction to Chaz Prymek’s new record under the Lake Mary umbrella. On November 15th he’ll release Sun Dogs an aching, expansive exploration of sun-baked and windswept guitar ramble that evokes the winding wooded paths of the Mountain States. Full Spctrum graces us all with the nearly ten-minute title track today in anticipation of the record’s release and it’s a sun seeker that melts into the horizon before it ropes in a bit of motorik pulse in its final minutes. You’re not likely to hear anything this refreshing and bittersweet today, so lay back and enjoy. Record is limited to 300.




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Bill Orcutt

After years of disassembling the notions of song through the divinations of his guitar, Bill Orcutt is putting them back together, albeit with his own slant on what folk and blues are meant to be. Orcutt’s always had a knack for taking songforms into less comfortable territory, letting his runs ruffle rather than soothe the soul, all while shaking the American Songbook by its ankles. He’s found a cache of secret notes between the pages of that songbook and he’s pulled a few of them into his own compositions for a ride that’s both familiar and transformative. The record roots itself in the same fingerpicked folk that might rear its head on a Richard Bishop or Fahey album and the same syncopated blues that informed players from the porches to the stage, but like Tetuzi Akiyama, Loren Connors, or 75 Dollar Bill alongside him, he’s taken the riff and ramble and given them teeth.

His runs aren’t pure, and we should all be thankful for that. When Orcutt runs the boogie down he’s bound to bend bones to the point of breaking if the listener is inspired to movement. Don’t nod along too hard lest you strain a ligament, y’know. His acoustic runs still bring forth the image of natural splendor, but there’s a taste of man-made disaster in there as well. In his vision trees are uprooted and twisted with power lines and smells of charred wood mingle with verdant moss. Orcutt goes to the well and brings back the elements of life, but not before letting a bit of blood loose in the water. We are nourished and slightly poisoned at the same time. As usual he’s proven a master of his forms, but just as usual he’s taken expectation and kicked it into the dirt. There are others that have tried, but few that can find that same singular light that Orcutt brings to an album.




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J.R. Bohannan – “Reflections of an American Dream”

The first cut from the upcoming solo debut LP by J.R. Bohannon is a sparkling, dewy song that rambles down the countryside with sun in its soul. After years playing with Torres and Gold Dime, Bohannon follows his EP Recôncavo from April with a record that stretches through solo sunshine and jazz explorations, bringing experimental drummer in demand Greg Fox on board along and Luke Stewart on bass. For now, though, this one is all Bohannon – bare, but not dry, finding the beauty in running its fingers along the ridges of fallen trees and letting the mountain air fill every inch of it with a good humor. The record is out later this month and I’d recommend getting a bit excited about that.



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Zachary Hay – “3”

It’s always time to stop and listen when a new one rolls down the roster from Scissor Tail and today’s no exception. The label is releasing the debut from Zachary Hay under his own name. He’s previously stayed tucked behind the monikers Bronze Horse and The Dove Azima, but this time he’s stripping it all back and letting his own name hang on the door. The album is a sparse slice of American Primitive folk – cut from the cloth of Fahey and Basho, but tied tight with the discarded threads of Loren Connors, Tashi Dorji, Bill Orcutt, and Scott Tuma. There’s not the same type of fluidity that would befit a Fahey acolyte, but there’s more movement here than Connors usually lets take hold. Hay falls somewhere between the ripple-pickers and the 4AM dirge hunters. There’s a couple of tracks up now, all equally haunted and hollowed so it bodes well for the full release when it slips out on November 22nd.




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Ryley Walker Presents Imaginational Anthem, Vol. 9

When acoustic guitar haven Thompkins Square first came to the fore in 2005, they began with a series called Imaginational Anthem which sought to shed some light on overlooked entries to the fingerpicked oeuvre. They’ve cycled through a few (or 9 to be exact) and as of 2010 the series began to look into more contemporary players with one artist doing the curating. This time around its generational mouthpiece and all-around jack of all genres Ryley Walker doing the picking. He’s gone deep into his bench of contemporaries for a set that includes faves like Mosses, Fire-Toolz, and new BBiB signing Kendra Amelie, who shares the first track from the comp. Check out “Boat Ride,” a decidedly more acoustic affair than her upcoming longplayer, but no less captivating or technically astounding. The comp is out September 20th.





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Joseph Allred

Feeding Tube resumes its breakneck schedule of underground gems with a new release from Boston picker Joseph Allred. The guitarist has been knocking out great tapes for some time, including a few this year on the quietly endearing new imprint Garden Portal recs, but this marks the man’s third LP proper, following up 2016’s Fire & Earth for Scissor Tail. In his tape travels Allred has explored the persona of Poor Faulkner, a lonesome middle-aged man with an inner sadness and outer problem with ghosts of the non-metaphorical variety. Though his works are instrumental, this character’s narrative informs the tangle of strings that Allred weaves over the course of O Meadowlark. The titles tell of a man visted by a bird, coaxed to a wooded cabin in search of an Angel who brings a vision to Poor Faulkner. The album only plays out through his ascension with the promise of that vision to come in a later album.

While the narrative adds a nice color and emotional heft to the stringwork, even without the tale the album is an engrossing listen. Following in the Takoma tradition, Allred’s phrasing knocks between the river rambles of Basho and the Eastern sun salutations that Richard Bishop prefers. He swaps between guitar and banjo with ease, using the latter to rise like the sun in his vignette. Allred’s style is absorbing and it’s hard to escape the web of notes that he weaves. They surround the listener, dancing, dizzying, taunting, coaxing. He pulls the album back from the brink of technical showmanship, careful not to let it become just a flex of talent. Rather he imparts every note with the proper emotional heft to make the tempest of sound a heartbreaking aural journey. If you’re new to Allred’s catalog, this is a nice entry point and here’s hoping that Faulkner’s epiphany warrants a sequel to this stunner.



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Isasa

Quietly tumbling under the leaves of 2019 is the third album from Madrid’s Conrado Isasa – a fingerpicked gem that’s indebted to the Takoma school, but leaning forward towards a more experimental future. The guitarist’s phrases tumble delicately from his fingers, recalling his fascination with Fahey, but also the more open-ended spectrum of Richard Bishop. There’s often an inherent sadness in Isasa’s works, heartbroken but not beaten. On the slow and stately “Conversaciones en un Supermercado” the artist captures the empty ennui of wandering through necessary consumerism, forced to connect with humanity through the clarification of produce. On “Cuesta Ramon” he balances Eastern trills against a harmonium drone, taking his playing from American valleys to the hum and bustle of Indian cities, again conveying a sort of lostness within a sea of humanity. He even gives his influence Fahey a nod with a title dedicated to him, echoing the legendary guitarists balance of movement and touch through his feel of the strings.

There is joy also, though. He rambles like Rose on “Arquitecto Tinista,” cracking open the windows to let the sunlight shine down and the cool spring breezes blow damp and delightful. He wanders around the city square with no particular place to be on “Pocitos, Montevideo,” a shy, yet sweet track that’s an exercise in restraint. Throughout the album’s many moods the thread of isolation and connection seems to chew at the listener. Often fingerpicked albums convey moments of ebullience and anxiety but Isasa excels in finding the feelings between the extremes. He’s sketched an aural ode to unsure interludes, crossed glances, mild reliefs, and heartbreaks so small they’re only noticed after being added together at the end of a day. His touch on the strings echoes in the mind long after the needle’s left the record, haunting the listener like a task left unfinished, a sentiment unresolved.



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Elkhorn – “Song of the Son”

I’ve already shared a look into Elkhorn’s gorgeous, Sun Cycle, but one more couldn’t hurt, right? The duo has another simple, yet perfectly spare video of them live in the room, this time playing “Song of the Son,” with Eric Silver and Josh Johnson capturing the performance. This time there’s less of the cinder and smoke than pervades “To See Darkness,” revealing the pair’s ability to bottle joy into nearly nine minutes of pastoral perfection. The lighter mood by no means lessens the intricate complexity of the pair’s playing – a threaded web of strings that comes off effortless but is as dense and delicate as any natural wonder. The track come from their soon to be released double set – Sun Cycle, which sees them playing as a duo, and Elk Jam, which works as a quartet with Ryan Jewell and Willie Lane. Both are out on Feeding Tube next week.



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