Sunday, April 13, 2008

Guitar Soli - Wayfaring Strangers

The Numero Group returns with more obscure beauty. Expanding their distinctive quality, Rob Sevier and company resound tastefully yet again,
but with a new reissue direction for a new year. Further strengthening their contention that esoteric is better, Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli pulls selectively from the 15 transformative years between two guitar paradigms — American Primitive Guitar of the Sixties and New Age of the Eighties — showcasing lesser known innovators who challenged the narrative depths found in a 6 or 12 string guitar.
The song selection maps fingerstyle’s frontiers from 1966-1981, suggesting Numero as a label retrospectively in discussion with John Fahey’s Takoma Records and William Ackerman’s Windham Hill Records. Likewise, the life stories painstakingly detailed in Guitar Soli’s spirited 40-page booklet affirm the authenticity of the players alongside their compositions, thereby acknowledging both the stylistic traditions and regional environments that nurtured such songwriting — idiosyncratic American locales like Northern California or rural Wisconsin. From Ted Lucas playing sitar on Motown records to Brad Chequer never making it past Windham Hill’s slush pile, these literally unsung songs and players had a tangible presence in their day.
More than anything, Guitar Soli embodies a latter-day American folk aesthetic, when impressions of a changed and changing society evolved into verve and musical self-discovery. For instance, listen to this compilation’s bookends — two haunting compositions by Dana Westover and Dwayne Cannan — that function as Guitar Soli’s overtures, and yet feel just too powerful to be mere ruminations. Thriving on complementary opposites, these songs linger loudly and quietly, the players sounding out a self-determination that surely includes loneliness. The 14 voices on Guitar Soli shimmer with 14 personalized guitar stylings, each marked by an independence in composition through discipline and mastery.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Essential Listening #2

What??!!! Three Dog Night???!!!
I was watching an episode of "Lost" a few months ago when in a critical scene this song cranked over my speakers and once again into my consciousness after many years. The lyrics are spiritually healing and uplifting - a rarity in the music industry.
Wash away my trouble
Wash away my pain
With the rain in shambala
Everyone is helpful
Everyone is kind
on the road to shambala
How does your light shine
in the halls of shambala?

Since when has a pop song expressed this essence of hopefulness? Listen, immerse, and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Essential Listening #1

I've decided to take a break from doing a "Release of the Month" for April and instead pose the question: if I had to grab a record or three from a burning building, what would they be? High on the priority list would be this 7" vinyl released by Bruce Licher's Independent Project Records back in the early 1990's in miniscule amounts. Half String's Oval / Sun Less Sea are sonic journeys that stay embedded in your consciousness. Sun Less Sea is one of my favorite songs of all time - starting off with a meandering but melodic jangly guitar line and building to a wall of sound crescendo that shows you how to soar with the gods before drifting slowly back into the atmosphere. Pure bliss. You could get lost here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Release of the Month: February 2007 - North Sea Radio Orchestra

How can you *not* love a UK musical collective that call themselves the North Sea Radio Orchestra? Their name conjures images of staticy shortwave radio signals, rain-battered ships and formidable waves. Their music conjures images of a different nature - clean, well-lighted, intimate theaters and performance spaces. Neo-classical in tone, with a healthy mix of instrumentals and vocal based songs, North Sea Radio Orchestra is a rare gem ... akin to the American based neo-classical group Rachel's. Is it pretentious? If quiet is the new loud, this cd roars.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Release of the Month: January 2007 - The Harpeth Trace On Disappearing

Following the eloquent and exceptional debut EP "Man and the Cousin", The Harpeth Trace has released a gem of haunting folk and psychedelia. In my mind's eye, I imagine the band rolling into a cramped studio around 3 am to start recording sessions in the quiet cloak of night. In fact, the word nocturnal comes to mind when swimming through their slowbeat haze of guitar, drums and bass. On Disappearing is the perfect title for the meditative, blues-tinged quality of Harpeth Trace's first full length cd ... one can almost fade into the shadows and silences in these songs. Not that The Harpeth Trace can't rock out ... as they do on "The Numbers in Your Hair".
All of their song titles are impressionistic, with hints of the Clientele's wordsmithing --- but The Harpeth Trace is uniquely it's own band, defying reference points. With On Disappearing they have created a masterpiece that flows and works its magic from track to track --- the way an album was meant to be listened to.