September 17, 2010

Sir Richard BishopWhile My Guitar Violently Bleeds
American primitivism, instrumental, solo guitar, drone

While My Guitar Violently Bleeds, by prolific ex-Sun City Girls guitarist Sir Richard Bishop, is a curiously disjointed album. It showcases two pieces of highly accomplished American Primitivism – one lengthy (“Zurvan”) and one extremely lengthy (“Mahavidya”) – separated by a ten minute palate-cleanser of dense electric guitar noise (“Smashana”). Bishop proves himself to be a learned and versatile student of the six-string, as he incorporates a large variety of different styles of folk music, drawn from all over the world, into his guitar playing. “Zurvan”, which clocks in at just shy of seven minutes, is a quick-paced piece, functioning primarily within a neo-flamenco style, and it showcases some really great rapid fire passages that integrate very loose strumming with rising and falling arpeggios and exciting fingerwork. “Mahavidya”, on the other hand, is a gradual, contemplative, twenty-fire minute long slow-boiler, shifting through sparse, repeating guitar lines before finally reaching its exciting and dynamic finale. It fills its massive runtime surprisingly effortlessly, definitely feeling like a much shorter track than it actually is, plus it stands as one of the most distinctly emotive instrumental tracks I’ve ever heard. American Primitivism is a genre renowned for its Sir Richard Bishop - While My Guitar Violently Bleedsexpert fingerwork, and this album is definitely no exception – Bishop is stunningly nimble in his guitarwork, displaying a level of dexterity so proficient that it strains one’s belief. This plays beautifully off the album’s “up close” style of recording, which not only creates an intimate atmosphere but also allows the listener to better appreciate the complex movements involved as every strum, slip, slide, drop and hammer is captured in crisp detail.

(not from this album)



August 25, 2010

Jack RoseKensington Blues
American-primitivism, solo-guitar, folk, instrumental

Jack Rose pretty clearly establishes himself Jack Rose - Kensington Bluesas a disciple of John Fahey on Kensington Blues, his fifth and best known album of American Primitivism. The fascinating instrumental guitar style, a traditionally vocalless method which combines neo-classical and avant-garde approaches with country/blues finger-picking techniques, was invented by Fahey in the 1950s, and Rose makes an exceptional contribution to its continued development. He does a terrific job straddling that fine line between the style’s melodic aspects and it’s more “musically academic” ones, making for an album that’s quite breezy and easily listenable, yet at the same time impresses with its complexity, masterful playing (Primitivism often showcases some pretty nimble fingers, and this album is no exception) and attention to detail. The three-minute title track opens the album, and serves its purpose beautifully as an accessible, concise introduction and a taster of what’s to come, with the remainder of the album shifting between self-contained songs of similar brevity and longer passages of more overtly ambitious work. Rose suddenly and unexpectedly died in late-2009, at just 38 years of age, bringing premature closure to a career that had already delivered one masterpiece and certainly had the potential to deliver more. Kensington Blues ensures that he will always hold a place in the upper-echelon of players of American Primitivism, and of guitarists in general.