Posts Tagged ‘Pedal Steel’

Chuck Johnson – “Raz-de-Marée”

2021 continues last year’s exploration of pedal steel as a divining force for solace and sorrow. With a follow-up to 2017’s Balsams Johnson again inhabits the nature of loss to find the furrow of scar tissue that lays inside the mind. This time he’s looking past the wound to the world built on top of the turmoil —the good and bad that have been propped against the pain. “Raz-de-Marée” unfolds with a slow elegance, radiating a healing light that pours like relief from a sob. Notably, Johnson has sought to bring not only the emotional depth through the instrument, but to utilized particular spaces to capture an atmosphere within each track. “Johnson dug through archival recordings from Oakland DIY performance spaces to digitally extract their reverb and echo qualities. He then applied these effects—as well as the digitally modeled reverberation of a redwood forest—to the tracks on The Cinder Grove. The effect, at least on the first song, is a peaceful natural air that calms what it can’t cure. The record is out February 5th from VDSQ.



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Barry Walker Jr. – “Up the Fan, Into the Keyhole”

Already populating one of 2020’s highly anticipated releases, the just announced North Americans record for Third Man, pedal steel player Barry Walker Jr. is helming his own follow-up to 2018’s excellent Diaspora Urkontinent as well. Like his compatriot McDermott, Walker is expanding the boundaries of his genre in all directions, trading the American Primitive of North Americans for a brand of psychedelic country that’s more indebted to Göttsching and Fripp than it its to the traditional straits of Cosmic Country or even the pedal steel virtuosity of Herb Remington. While his last album might have sat nicely alongside Luke Schneider’s latest (also for Third Man), this is no solo saunter. Walker bends the lonesome tears of his instrument through the black rainbow, but he brings along a shuffling back section as well, tumbling the first inklings of the record through a brokedown valley that’s littered with rusted arcticture that’s either junkyard or sculpture garden. Its up to the listener to parse it out against the squint of the low-hung sun. This marks a welcome return to the game for Holy Mountain Records, who’ve long been a favorite of RSTB. Glad to have ‘em back. The record is out October 30th.





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North Americans – “Furniture in the Valley / Rivers That You Cannot See”

The last outing from Patrick McDermott’s North Americans was a meditative, pastoral record that found the artist pulling in contributions from Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), Julianna Barwick, and Dylan Baldi (Cloud Nothings). Focused more on McDermott’s prowess with American Primitive, the record proved to push North Americans into a larger stage that seems likely expand only further with his upcoming record for Third Man. Perhaps inspired by their last outing in pedal steel, the venerable Nashville label hooks in McDermott and North Americans for a new LP that pairs him with Northwest pedal steel player Barry Walker, who also released a record on North Americans’ former home Driftless.

The first taste of Roped In comes with a long, somber video that pairs album tracks “Furniture in the Valley” and “Rivers That You Cannot See” with a narrative of Mennonite travelers, eclipse viewing, and plains states desperation that feels like Noah Hawley might have a hand I there somewhere (he doesn’t just to be clear). The two tracks scratch at the heart of loss, quivering with sadness, sobriety, and human frailty. The album boasts further contributions from Mary Lattimore and William Tyler, and the feel of this is not so far off from the latter’s own First Cow score that was released earlier in the year. The record lands October 9th wrapped again in gorgeous art from Brian Blomerth.

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