The late Jack Rose and his good friend Glenn Jones have established worldwide reputations as standard-bearers in the modern instrumental guitar movement, and here at Work & Worry, we’ve always tried to give them their due. In the months since Rose’s untimely death, there has been a flood of new Jack-related releases: his fantastic full length album, a six-plus hour, digital-only tribute collection, and an upcoming EP featuring D.Charles Speer… a lot to take in, and at this website, we haven’t had the easiest time keeping pace. Heck, I think I would’ve been satisfied with just the excellent Brickbat Books Bootlegs posted by Delta Slider a little while back! But I think that I can say with some confidence that the most indispensable artifact from this important era in underground acoustic guitar music might be this wonderful DVD from Strange Attactors Audio House.
If you’ve never been lucky enough to see Rose or Jones perform, or if their albums have still eluded you, this DVD would serve as a perfect entry point… however, if you are familiar with their recorded output, or if you’ve seen either man play live in the last few years, then like me, you will likely recognize many of the compositions on The Things We Used To Do. This familiarity doesn’t detract from the viewing/listening experience, though, far from it… many of these takes are as good or better than their album counterparts, and that’s no easy feat!
All the same, I’d like to refrain from analyzing the music itself, except to say that both players are in fine form, performing their respective brands of expanded-consciousness, post-Takoma guitar music with gusto. What I can’t stress enough is how beautifully The Things That We Used To Do was conceived, from the packaging to the filming, from the editing to the pristine audio quality.
The gorgeous eco-wallet package features the old-timey, animorphic artwork that has become a hallmark of Jones’ album and poster designs, and also gives some clues to the history between these two players. At first glance the art direction seems very no-frills, but there is actually much to look at and absorb. The DVD navigation menu has the performances divided into groups of duets, solo sets, an interview and live sets from each player, unfortunately with no “play all” option (my only quibble with the entire presentation, really.)
The cinematography, particularly in the “studio” setting (a balmy yet cozy loft in New York City) is nothing short of compelling. Rose’s and Jones’ technique, compositional and improvisational talents are all laid bare, captured as they are in vivid detail, the cameras slowly examining every inch of the experience. Long shots give way to close-ups of fretting and picking hands in action, and guitar-geeks (like me) can more easily suss out picking patterns, tunings, fretting and capo positions. Everything from the length of Rose’s nails to the dust under Jones’ strings is palpable, and the warm, clear audio puts the listener right in the room with these guitar monsters… I simply couldn’t imagine this being done any better.
The live sets are excellent as well, but this DVD would be worth the cost of admission just for the 30 minute interview with Byron Coley, a veteran music writer who manages to get some fantastic stories (and more than a few laughs) out of his interview subjects. In their conversation, Rose and Jones reflect on how they met and came to work together, their musical history, influences and inspirations.
What more can I say… in the digital age, The Things That We Used To Do easily puts just about any YouTube clip to shame, and reminds us how great music films can be. This release is absolutely essential for anyone interested in the music of Jack Rose, Glenn Jones, or the American Primitive style.