Posts Tagged ‘Tompkins Square’

Bobby Lee on Mark James – S/T

The last year has seen an absolute windfall of cosmic and ambient country albums, pushing the pedal steel and whisper of strings to the forefront, but not letting go of any of the melancholy sweep of the open land or the haunted howl of the wind. One of those doing it best has been Bobby Lee, the Sheffield, UK guitarist whose album from last year is just getting a new life on LP and whose latest, released today, is already climbing the essential releases tally of 2021. Bobby’s already done me a service in sending over an excellent guest mixtape of long lost Xian country, but he’s gone above and beyond with a pick for the Hidden Gems series as well. Check out Bobby’s wander into the world of Mark James’ eponymous LP from 1973 and see how the record has affected his own works.

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Bobby Lee

xThis week marks the release of Bobby Lee’s follow-up to his excellent 2020 debut Shakedown in Slabtown. Double the joy because the first LP is getting a vinyl UK vinyl edition while he’ll land at Tompkins Square here in the US for the physical release of Origin Myths. Lee (GospelbeacH, Canyon Family) added to the excellent run of cosmic country that permeated the air last year and his latest sinks deeper into the streaked skies and rolling vistas that Slabtown began to explore. With a warm layer of tape hiss running underneath, Lee lays out eight (twelve on the LP) more landscapes of vision quest country, letting the listener wander in a heatstroke haze with occasional dips into oases that may or may not truly exist. It’s an LP that vibrates in rare air, finding its home weaving through the heat-ripple haze off of the long dusted pavement.

While the last record had more of a boogie element to it, melting down JJ Cale and and Golden Gunn choogle into a languorous stretch of slow shifting psychedelic headspace, this time he leans heavier into the Bruce Langhorne touches that curled at the edges of his debut. The long, lingering feel of Western expanses creeps into the out-of-body buzz, lifting the listener into the strata above the plains to float between the heart and the horizon. Joining SUSS, Bobby Walker Jr, and North Americans, Lee helps to round out a new wave of top line ambient country. Like his peers, Lee excels a channeling the twin prongs of the American Southwest — the beauty and the loneliness — into an aural ache strong enough to pull sorrow and serenity from the marrow by the milligram. Shakdown in Slabtown set the listener free to enter Bobby’s strain of cosmic vibration, Origin Myths finds the thrum of the canyon and sets it to tape.

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Sam Burton

This year has seen plenty of artists dig back into the past for inspiration, embedding themselves into the ‘70s like wood paneling with macrame accents. From the faded desert high of Rose City Band to the wrinkled postcards of Cut Worms and the upcoming pre-dawn sighs of Pearl Charles, there’s a pervasive sway of West Coast calm from another time. The debut from Sam Burton falls in-between the time-traversed radio waves of those offerings. Burton’s voice, as the good folks over at Tompkins Square point out, evokes a bit of Roy Orbison’s wearier moments, away from the lights and upswung soul of his more pop works. In the same respect, there’s a touch of Glen Campbell in Sam’s delivery, and much of I Can Go With You sounds like Bobby Gentry might show up for a duet at any point.

That might paint Burton into a sort of turtle-necked pop corner, but that’s not entirely accurate. While he could easily slip in and out of time with that sound vocally, musically the record has a more lost highway country stamp on it. With a wounded countenance at the forefront of his songwriting, Sam sets himself up rifling through a smoke-curled pile of private press casualties — limping like Bob Desper, staring off into the distance like Jim Sullivan, or waiting for the sunrise with Dave Bixby. It’s the kind of record that would have (and still just might) wind up a collector’s treasured find. Burton’s guitars don’t come with flash, there are no psychedelics to obscure the pain, but there’s an innate companionship in his songs. If last call lands like a crushing blow, Sam’s songs help heal the ache that’s left untouched by substance or sobriety alike. This album’s been rolling around my ears for a few weeks, but it pairs quite well with a cold night with morning feeling like it’s taking its time to come.

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Josh Kimbrough

The right kind of summer night begs for fingerpicked guitar, and right now there’s nothing that’s hitting the spot quite like this LP from Josh Kimbrough. The record is an ode to fatherhood, nature, and solitude — elements that might feel right at home in the midst of a very distant 2020. The record works the less showy end of the fingerpicked spectrum, something that I’ve been a vocal fan of for quite a few years (to put it mildly). Rather than a flurry of notes that knock the listener backwards, Kimbrough is working through patient melodies that saunter and sway, aided and abetted by a supporting bench that includes members of Jake Xerxes Fussell’s band, The Nathan Bowles Trio, Bowerbirds, and features production from Jeff Crawford (The Dead Tongues, Big Star’s Third).

The tone quite is appropriately isolated, though not necessarily lonesome. Kimbrough lets his runs ripple and ramble, buoyed by a bevy of flutes, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo. The songs on Slither, Soar & Disappear are tender and torn, reserved in their approach, though they leave an impression on the listener that’s hardly delicate. Like the natural world they seek to emulate, the songs open up to the sun, bow lightly to the morning dew, and weave themselves seamlessly into the heartbeat of the Earth. The rocord is a companion to calm days and a course correction for those that skew more frantic. If the slowdown of society has left you time to ponder the natural course for awhile, you could do no better than to use Kimbrogh’s LP as a guide to the underside of the mossy path.





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Ten Years Gone: A Tribute To Jack Rose

I didn’t have a chance to mention this one yesterday, but essential news nontheless. Its been ten years since Jack Rose vanished from this earth too soon and its still the decade hasn’t lessened the tragedy one bit. My fondest memory is of seeing him and Wooden Wand in the back of a small bar in Greenpoint. Jack’s presence was magnetic and made any venue come alive with the movement of his strings. Tompkins Square has released a touching tribute to Jack, curated by Buck Curran and it features “original instrumentals made as tribute to Jack by a few of his friends (Mike Gangloff, Sir Richard Bishop, Helena Espvall, Buck Curran, Micah Blue Smaldone, Nick Schillace) and by a group of emerging artists inspired by his music (Andy McLeod, Simone Romei, Matt Sowell, Joseph Allred, Prana Crafter, Paolo Laboule Novellino, Mariano Rodriguez).”

There are a ton of RSTB favorites in this list, and the album carries on the spirit of Jack Rose with beauty and grace. I’d highly recommend tucking into this one on a crisp winter’s morning and letting it wash over you for the rest of the day.



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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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