Posts Tagged ‘Fingerpicked Guitar’

North Americans

Aiding an expanded focus at Third Man on another side of guitar based records, North Americans’ Patrick McDermott follows up 2018’s Going Steady with his most transcendental work yet. The previous album was rooted in American Primitive, with a bubble of outre synth and experimental touches rising just below the surface. He drew in Julliana Barwick, Dylan Baldi (Cloud Nothings), and pedal steel player and fellow Driftless alum Hayden Pedigo into his orbit and the resulting record had an immediate feel like a woolen blanket for the soul. For Roped In he’s extending the comfort and calm, spending the majority of the record elevating the serene with pedal steel player Barry Walker, though this time friends Mary Lattimore and William Tyler add harp and guitar respectively. Largely, this is a landscape built and maintained by the gentle lap of Walker and McDermott and the world they envision is radiant, rippling in all directions with the slow pick of strings and painterly melt of slide passages.

That Tyler appears on the album is fitting as Roped In evokes many of the same communal cares as his own aching entry from 2019, Goes West. Every song feels like it might have beamed from the players to tape fully in tact as dawn rose over the hills. The playing is nothing if not verdant — alive with a natural fragility and reverence for the meditative state. Every opportunity the record hits the speakers time and trouble seem to melt away. McDermott roots the album in the same American Primitive that brought him to focus in the past couple of years, but its now mixed with a New Age thrum that’s slowing the fingerpicked pace, buoyed by Walker’s weeping slides that land somewhere between harmonious drone and mournful sigh. I mean that in the most complimentary way possible, too. This is the kind of new age that Laraaji is born from, the true believer strain that smooths the edges of angst. While Walker has his own gem of a record on the way later in the year, here he and Patrick have pushed North Americans towards a bliss that cannot be ignored. Quite simply there may not be more beautiful records than this in 2020.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Elkhorn

The second installment of Elkhorn’s snowed-in sessions from last year strips away the electricity and effects, but with the cords cut the session only delves further into their dark night of the soul. Acoustic Sessions conjures up a relaxed vision of something previously posed in the electric setting, but here its no retread, but a tap into their similar apocalyptic folk vision, kicking at the dust bowl barrens just after the amps have gone dry. Working repetition and stark minimalism into a psychedelic experience that puts the echoplex away and turns up the inner turmoil, the Acoustic Storm Sessions create something of a haunted introspection that cycles ‘round and around in the brain with the three players pushing their stringwork through meditative moments that tapped isolation before it was cool.

Passages feel like they come from several planes of sound at once, pulling gently for attention before another player’s fingers rack the focus back. The set is split into two side-long improvisations, with the first more biting than the second. They stir up the ash and bone with side-A, letting the wounds heal a bit with the healing of Side-B. That second side wafts into a tender territory — resolute, exhausted, mindful of the flow of the aural conversation the guitars share. The strings find tension and twist on the record, but just as often they find a sort of solace solace over the winding trip laid bare here. This is one of those releases that’s stunning for the fact that it wasn’t even the focus of the sessions. This is the second wave, but its no less accomplished than the first — a bonus session that’s hardly cutting room worthy.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Matt Sowell

So many great records seem to have been born out of the folk nexus of 1,000 Incarnations of The Rose, the festival that brought together a wealth of classic fingerpicked talent like Peter Lang, Max Ochs, and Peter Walker with the more recent luminaries Glenn Jones, Marisa Anderson, Daniel Bachman, and Nathan Bowles. Yet what was great about the festival was that so many of the names flew much further below the horizon, letting the talent of those who’d not yet staked a reputation sit alongside revered legends. This is largely a testament to the booking of Elkhorn’s Jesse Sheppard, who’s years among players lead him to pack the three days with so many interesting players. Among the lesser known marquees lay Matt Sowell, who’d released a few low-key titles, but caught the ear of Feeding Tube during his set. A devoted union carpenter in addition to a stellar musician, the title Organize Or Die hits harder in these times of tension.

Among the weathered country blues, there’s a dissension that’s palpable through Sowell’s work. Alongside his nods to Fahey, and in turn Cotton, Patton, James and Johnson, there’s notes of Jack Rose’s intensity and Harry Tausig’s patience. There’s also a political fire that singes through the strings and stamps itself defiantly in titles like “Requiem For Democracy” and the title track. Like so many guitarists before him Sowell’s earthen medium is also a conduit for frustration, lament, and the weariness that’s laid on the American worker. It’s not all strife, though, there’s a joy that often simmers through the sadness of slide blues. The nights feel dark on Sowell’s record, but the days seem to come with an appreciation for the clear sky and the cool breeze. When a record like Organize Or Die comes your way, its a time to feel grateful for the collective spirit of folk players celebrating over three days in Maryland, and for chance meetings that lead to something that hits this hard.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

rootless

Jeremy Hurewitz’ rootless has been kicking around for a few years, but with his latest for Flower Room, he’s created an album that explores deeper dimensions. The guitarist has popped up on notable labels like Cabin Floor Esoterica, Aural Canyon, and Null Zone, but as the first Flower Room release outside of Matt Lajoie and Ash Brooks’ universe of Northeastern sounds, he’s capturing a meditative aura that’s impossible to deny. Hurewitz connected with multi-instrumentalist Luís Pérez Ixoneztli for his latest. Luís is the overseer of a collection of priceless, one-of-a-kind, indigenous instruments from Mesoamerica (many of them pre-Colombian), and they add a deepened mystery and spiritual aura to the works of rootless. Beside Jeremy’s gorgeous stringwork, Pérez Ixoneztli lets ancient pipes swirl into the mix, floating on a misted haze that’s eloquent in its pre-dawn glory. Per Flower Room’s description these range from “ocarinas and small whistles to dried cocoon shells strung together and used as shakers. The collection includes clay flutes that are possibly over a thousand years old.”

The winds take this record far beyond the standard fingerpicked fare. The deeper the album dives, the more it begins to resemble ritual and rite. The title track especially strays far from the meditative guitar path, pushing into the arms of Pérez Ixoneztli’s spectral mix of instruments and Hurewitz’ intimidating ambient growl. The stitches begin to unravel in a wonderful way, letting the knotted riffs give way to drone and dust and hazed memories that seems to flit in and out of consciousness on the final track. In many ways rootless has always lent a more experimental edge to the fingerpicked canon, but here, Jeremy finds his peak with the aid of Luís, creating a paring that I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing extend beyond this record, though this is more than enough to dig into for the time being.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Bobby Lee

Been greatly enjoying the sun-in sounds of this album from Bobby Lee. The Sheffield guitarist grapples his strings around a hook of of worn-denim instrumental psych country that’s pulling from JJ Cale, Golden Gunn, and the Natch sessions of Michael Chapman, with smoke tendrils of Bruce Langhorne threading through the mix. With Guy Whittaker (Sharron Kraus, Jim Ghedi, Big Eyes) on drums and percussion and Mark Armstrong on bass, Lee balances the band against the primitive snap of a drum machine that keeps time like white lines on the highway. The record is lent a grizzled cinematic feel that dredges up cheap motel rooms and dusty roads that are hardly traveled in the deep afternoon heat. There’s danger, there’s pain, there’s lament, but that’s reductive, there’s moments of peace here as well.

“Palomino” is a lonesome, picked number that dances around its own comfortability with the tenderness of a rider missing his or her horse.”Listings” is a three-way standoff between the night, Lee, and the amps. Bobby moves from the traditional — melding spirituals with Springsteen and letting Warren Zevon boil down into a sweatbox slink out of the record. Shakedown in Slabtown is slightly molten, shifting easily from swagger-stung confidence to trepidation and reserve. He ties it together well, though. Lee’s making his mark here, spinning classics into his own essence while crafting an album of personal mediations that spurn the impulse to sit still.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Tashi Dorji – “Now (Pt. I)”

The breathless pace of Tashi Dorji is admirable, to say the least. Adding to his already packed 2020 release schedule the improviser announces a new LP for Drag City. This time the constant collaborator retires alone to the studio, which sounds tame but it’s a rarity for someone so often captured in the live setting. “Now (Pt. I)” is turbulent, fractured, tense, and at times frantic, but it reflects the times it was written in quite concisely. Dorji burrows into the fuming storm at the heart of the modern era, bringing the frustrations of the past few years boiling to the surface. With the focus squarely on his playing, this promises to be one of his most focused in a little while, and the stark spotlight peels back the pain of us all. The LP is out September 25th from Drag City.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Powers/Rolin Duo

This year started out with a beautiful, tender album by Matthew Rolin, and he continues to stun with his duo recordings with Jen Powers. Anchored by Rolin’s circular guitar work, and fleshed out with the dulcimer work of Powers, the album cascades in sheets of shimmer. The two create a language of languid ripples that give the impression of moving through wet caves filled with light reflected off of water. The damp coolness lives inside the core of their eponymous LP, tempered slightly by the sawing midsection of “Catarwauls,” but even this plays into the overarching feeling of reverberating light and sound. The culmination is a sidelong stunner topping out at just under eighteen minutes that lets both artists unfurl their true prowess. The piece grows slowly, peaking out from over the horizon like the apt cover painting. As it takes shape the song opens itself to the listener, increasing its crystalline glow with each passing minute.

Up until now the pair has kept their output largely to live recordings, but a couple of tapes have slipped out on Athens label Garden Portal, both as a duo and alongside Jayson Gerycz (Cloud Nothings) on percussion. These recordings beg for more from the duo, and here’s hoping that this is the start of a fertile relationship with the Northeast’s best, Feeding Tube. Seems like quite a few are in need of something to bolster quiet contemplation these days, and while the impetus for these tracks may not have been meant for quite these times, its certainly appreciated.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Sir Richard Bishop

On his latest album Sir Richard Bishop moves forward and backward simultaneously. The record slips away from the yoke of organic string sounds that have grounded Bishop throughout his career – roping in electronic pathways, less organic textures, and a trend towards the avant over the ethereal. It’s as forward moving and adventurous as anything you’d expect from an artist rooted in the winking world textures and chaotic burn of Sun City Girls. Yet it’s also an ambitious experiment from an artist comfortable enough in his own skin that he’s able to balance virtuosity with curiosity. The record gazes backward in its patchwork approach by becoming a sort of sister album to his excellent aughts installment Polytheistic Fragments. Like that album the tone shifts from track to track, along with the instrumentation, but the overall feeling is one of becoming a soundtrack to some unseen film. The songs are vignettes that drip with sadness, sanguine solitude, and anxious intrigue. The themes have long threaded themselves through Bishop’s work, but he ties the knots particularly well between the pieces here while keeping up his approach of utilizing different instrumentation for each track.

The latter angle doesn’t become a gimmick but rather a conduit to bring out new shadows and shades in the unseen history of Oneiric Formulary. Where before he’d simply switch the tone and tumble of his fingered phrasing, now he lets the caustic gnaw of electronics creep into the mix. His labelmate and contemporary Ben Chasny has done something similar on his latest for DC as well, but Chasny makes synths feel like they were always in the DNA of his songs. Bishop makes it clear that they’ve come to corrupt. This becomes particularly clear on “Graveyard Wanderers”, a scraping, hulking beast of a track that’s without any of Bishop’s typical fluidity, instead hounding the midsection of the album with an overbearing dread. Not to be outdone, he follows the itch of electronics with a bagpipe dirge that churns the dread in yet another way before letting the languid stringwork and zonked electric slides return. Any follower of Bishop through the years knows that abrasive is in his oeuvre and he lets it linger here alongside some of his most accomplished runs and lyrical picking. This far on, Bishop is still looking to stir the pot and succeeding nicely.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

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.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

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.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments