Posts Tagged ‘Fingerpicked Guitar’

Matt Lajoie

While I’m not likely to do this any extra justice after Jesse Jarnow’s taken a crack at it, a four-day weekend away left this off of my rolls at the end of last week and its more than worth raising more of a fuss about. Lajoie’s been a constant fixture here at the site from Starbirthed to Ash & Herb, Herbcraft and more, but his solo slices come into clear view on Everlasting Spring. The album baptizes guitar in the crystal clear waters of the Kosmiche spring and we all come out born anew because of it. Matt sets the songs adrift on waves of repeated phrasing, mulling figures in circular sway, letting the listener lose themselves in the cascades of notes that fall all around. While this is gorgeous in the room, the headphones hold even more power as they lock the world away outside of the binaural bliss that seems to surround from all sides.

There’s a languid, late morning movement to the record. It’s an embodiment of the unhurried state of mind. Each note holds onto the listener with a subtle comfort, like hands on shoulders in times of pain. In the same regard it only serves to give shelter, shade, and understanding. Lajoie’s creations build a sanctuary of sound that doesn’t feel the need to push or pull with strong arms. Instead the movement of the record is measured in millimeters, but each tiny breeze he stirs up guides the fairest hairs on the skin towards a more enlightened existence by the time the record whispers to a close. Matt’s created a beacon of hope, lighting the path away from the malaise and malign of modern times. Should we all find ourselves inside its beam, we might just make it out, or at the very least make it through another day.



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Sir Richard Bishop & Ed Yazijian

There are always currents quietly bubbling under the collective consciousness – tributaries of sound that go largely unnoticed by a buying public, but for those who are tapped to the right frequencies they are as vital as any. One such current happens to be Unrock’s collaborative 12”s with the brothers Bishop. Dubbed the Saraswati Series, the collection is one that should not be overlooked, despite its low media profile. The ex-Sun City Girls have been working with a plethora of talented musicians, splitting sides and collaborating to create new worlds of acoustic and experimental stringwork. Alan has appeared under his Dwarfs of East Agouza banner, hooking up with Maurice Louca (Karkhana)  & Sam Shalabi (Land of Kush, Karkhana). Richard, meanwhile has collaborated with W. David Oliphant (Maybe Mental) and the series has split sides with Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt and Karkhana with Nadah El Shazly. No entry has been less than a whirlwind of stings and sound that dazzles with a technical prowess that’s only supplanted by entrancing melodies and thrumming harmonics.

All of this preamble brings us to the latest entry in the series which sees Richard connecting with Cul De Sac’s Ed Yazijian for collaborative pieces laced with guitar, lapsteel, tenor guitar, piano and traditional Indian instrumentation. The three untitled pieces buzz and ramble, scrape through the ceiling of nighttime temperament and bed down in a glow of ethereal beauty. The two play off of one another as a seamless soul, insistent in their approach to touching the nocturne node and setting off a thick fog of permanent midnight doused in cold humidity. The air around this record seems so still that it might shatter like thin frost on tree branches (cold despite its Indian bent). The record revels in intricate arcana that seems forever out of reach. The whole series is beguiling, but this remains the pinnacle of Saraswati so far. Fans of SRB know what to do. Get into this as soon as possible and let it wash over you regularly.



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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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