Tompkins Square has many charms, especially in their archival work, but one of the best has to be their Imaginational Anthem series. The series was started back in 2005 to shine a light on solo guitar players. The first couple of installments stretched back through known and unknown players, with Jack Rose, James Blackshaw, and Glenn Jones sitting alongside Suni McGrath, Sandy Bull, and Robbie Basho. Then the series turns towards newer artists operating in the sphere of guitar, and finally with individual artists acting as curators of several editions. Lots of RSTB faves have taken the helm over the years from Hayden Pedigo to Ryley Walker. Yet most of them stayed within the realm of the guitar in standard regard. This time, though, the series has expanded with Luke Schneider reaching out to his fellow stewards of the pedal steel for the 11th edition.
Luke takes a page from the series past and present, rounding up a whole stable of newer pedal phenoms that have taken up over the years, especially in light of the ambient country wave. Alongside a cut from himself, Spencer Cullum and Barry Walker Jr. both find their way into the ranks alongside more seasoned players. Baltimore composer Susan Alcorn and BJ Cole have both carved out niches within the instrument’s ranks and Danish player Margrethe Björklund, who’s been behind the instrument since the ‘90s offers up a particularly dark and scarred take. Imaginational Anthem succeeds not only because of the music picked but because of the curator’s ear, the trust placed in a player to lead us through their own favorite arbiters of sound. The pedal steel was long overdue for a modern compendium. Though this is far from a completist take, its a great primer for those looking to jump in.
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