Sunday, April 13, 2008
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.