Posts Tagged ‘Fingerpicked’

Zachary Cale

The latest album from Zachary Cale, while awash in a sort of sunset dulcet feeling is also soaked in a good dose of uncertainty that feels rather relatable. While the album’s been in the works for the last five years, that uncertainty captures the feeling of a year that seems unable to let up. Cale’s pace quavers between rambling fingerpicked rivulets and the kind of buttered comfort that’s made Kurt Vile, Mike Polizze and the Philly set simmer. He peppers in instrumentals that let his understated prowess shine — skewing pensive at some times, and propulsive at others — tying the album together like a faded tapestry. It’s in his equally worn and weathered lyrics, though, that Cale glows the warmest.

False Spring, as the title suggests, deals with a glimmer of hope snuffed by chance and change. Time is beast on this record, leaving the protagonist stranded, stifled, and generally set adrift. Cale’s songs gnaw at uncertainty and are in turn gnawed right back. Occasionally he revels in the looseness of it all, but more often than not Cale is leaning into the bitter winds with an eye in both directions. He’s looking for the lamplight on the horizon and it’s never quite clear if he’s bound to find it. He brings along a pretty good crew on the voyage, though. His tight backing band including Brent Cordero and Charles Burst of The Occasion is amplified by particularly languid pedal steel from Dan Lead, whose lent his tone to Jess Williamson, Kevin Morby and Cass McCombs. The record is a raft in waters that aren’t so forgiving and its worth holding on tight.




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Matthew J. Rolin

Finally hitting a week where I can catch up on all the great LPs in the pile, many of which come from the esteemed Feeding Tube. This one’s for the fingerpick freaks out there, and while it hits the heartstrings of those weaned on Fahey and, more importantly, Kottke, it appears that Rolin has a more modern thorn in his side. The artist comes from Cleveland garage and psych outfits (most notably Nowhere) that ramble far less than they hop through the haze. After a shift to Chicago Rolin ditched the echoplex dreams for acoustic inflection, leaning heavier on the new class kickers like Ryley Walker, Daniel Bachman, William Tyler, and Richard Bishop more than the Tompkins Square set for his inspiration. No matter what the inroads, though, the impact remains the same. Like American Primitive dominoes the influences trickles through in his playing and he enters into the new class alongside Itasca, Kendra Amelie, and Joseph Allred as carriers of the torch.

Influences aside, the album is a refreshingly vernal take on the form. Tracks tumble and sparkle with life. His runs are rapid, but cut through with a slide-blues dissonance that sides with passion over precision. There’s a forlorn quality to songs like “Siren” and the appropriately titled “Neverendingness,” but Rolin works his way through mourning, meditation, and celebration all in good time as the record unfolds. There’s been a staggeringly great run of new fingerpicked music over the last decade and this is a lovely addition to the roster. Just check out that Ryley curated Tompkins Sq LP for a taste (Rolin’s included) to really get acquainted. This one’s getting scarce (my fault for not giving it some love sooner) but where you find it, you should certainly pick it up.



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Kendra Amalie

The Beyond Beyond is Beyond debut from Kendra Amalia is a multi-headed monster of guitar, shifting styles as needed from pointilliste string runs with a metallic bite to soft-hearted country ramble. She dabbles with indie-psych, but more often than not, Amalie lays back into the bed of fingerpicked folk. The guitarist has created several offerings in her own name, though this remains the most polished. She’s worked with Wisconsin outfits Eleven Eleven, Names Divine, and Guitar Hell over the years and remains a fixture of the state’s scene. Intuition, however, is the sound of Amalie breaking forward into her own form. The patchwork approach works in her favor as a nuanced spread of her talent, and while sometimes the seams show, she makes it all fit together into a fairly ornate tapestry.

At its core Intuition sounds like an artist finding her brightest beams while still leaving room to experiment, always rolling away from being pinned down. That said, there are a couple of songs that seem to embody the light more than others. Corralling her fingerpicked prowess alongside a slow simmer vocal that’s just shy of Espers territory on “Stay Low,” Amalie adds in the pained cry of slide guitar and the song becomes a vital pivot point for the album. Likewise, the airy, haunted ripple of “Become the Light” fashions her heavier psych into a stunning explosion of folk put through the fire. With songs like these in her roster it seems only certain that she’ll work alchemical magic to craft an album that rides powerful winds of anguish and awe. Intuition will quite likely wind up the spark that lights the fuse.



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East of the Valley Blues

If, somehow, you’re missing out on Astral Spirits admirable run of records of late, then its time to get acquainted fast. The Monofonus Press offshoot has been digging up some of the most essential jazz and experimental sets and locking them down in limited cassette quantities. Most of the catalog tunnels the underside of jazz’ odyssey, allowing a space for artists to expand and experiment in a comfortable setting. With little commercial expectations the releases have often yielded larger risks and intriguing results. While the catalog boasts heavy hitters like Kid Millions, Thurston Moore, Kawabata Mokoto and Joe McPhee, its often the less marquee releases that deserve some attention as well. The series marks the fourth album by Toronto siblings East of the Valley Blues and they add a gnarled dose of fingerpicked guitar to the stable.

The two tracks explore hypnotic, circular melodies scarred with fret noise and uneasy ambience. The brothers clearly take the line from Fahey and Basho, and while not necessarily paving their own way like, say, Daniel Bachman this year, they’re still working up a worthy listen within these two halves of the acoustic sphere. Both tracks bear similar titling and though the focus lays cleanly on the thirty minute, Ressemblera title track, they do some fine work on the cassette’s flip with the less meditative and more raucous, “Reassemblera”. The release poses another side to the label and one that I hope they continue to explore with more fingerpicked releases. Then again, the freeform nature is what makes Astral Spirits such a delight. Whatever’s next will surely come from outside the bounds of expectation and elevate a deserving voice.




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Daniel Bachman

For his latest album Daniel Bachman has embraced space – space between notes with runs that amble rather than ramble, outdoor space via field recordings and headspace through some of his most challenging and experimental sides yet. His last album embraced an Appalachian folksiness, pock-marked by some clangorous diversions that kept it from becoming an exercise in gazing through the wrinkles of the past. While Bachman’s always been reverent of the past, he’s never been tied down by it. As he lays into The Morning Star, though, he’s torn tradition apart and glued it back together in his own vision.

For an album created by one of the great technical talents of our age, there’s a surprising shift from flashy fingerwork here to a much larger emphasis on environment and tone. Through a series of longform drones, flickering and sinister vocal samples and meditative plucks, Bachman drives the album with an air of contemplation. The Morning Star absorbs and ingests the chaos of modern matters and slows them down, picks them over with the eye of a patient woodcarver and sends out the artist’s interpretation – his rough edges and jagged hand adding a craggy character in purposeful acts of degradation.

The album is not eclipsed in total darkness, the nervously hopeful “Song for the Setting Sun III” gives a slight break in Bachman’s cloudbank compositions, but overall, it’s one of Bachman’s darkest works to date. It’s also probably one of his most accomplished. From Fahey to Richard Bishop, there are those who have infused fingerpicked folk with an experimentation that’s palpable and potent. In fact, this might just be Bachman’s America, its just that his own America has slipped its axis quite a bit from where Fahey found it. If you’re looking for lush technicality that’s born to sooth, sway towards the excellent album from Nathan Salsburg, also out this month. If you’re ready to pull the strings until they break the skin and burn the bone, Bachman’s your man.




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Dave Evans – The Words In Between

Earth Records pick up a folk classic from the often-overlooked Dave Evans. While the British songwriter came to prominence on his status as a fingerpicked impresario, on his debut album he employs mournful vocals that strike a chord not unlike Bert Jansch or Roy Harper. Its in that same lonesome, man at the end of a long night weariness that he settles, but he stands apart from both of his contemporaries and more technical players like Renbourn or Basho with his hugely harmonic style of playing. Evans constructed his own instrument and those modifications emphasized his prowess on the strings.

The record was a humble affair, recorded in the home studio of fellow folk singer Ian Anderson and the warmth and intimacy of the setting seeps through the speakers, unfettered and embracing the listener with Evans’ tangles of strings and amber-hued delivery. He adds further charms to the homespun album with the yearning background vocals from Adrienne Weber whose presence in a song is always welcome. The Words In Between has long been cited as a lost classic and inspiration for many who tumble over the strings rather than see fit to strum. Earth does the record well with their reissue that reimagines the cover art slightly and gives this LP another shot for the uninitiated. If you count among those ranks, get familiar.



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