We are all one, In the Sun brings together a diverse range of artists from all over the world to celebrate and share in the spirit of the late six and twelve-string guitarist, Robbie Basho. I was thrilled to review this compilation for Work & Worry, as Robbie is a musician who has deeply touched my soul, gifting me with an influence I will carry with me for the rest of my days on this earth. Hearing a piece like “Dravidian Sunday” for the first time (from The Seal of the Blue Lotus) completely changed my outlook on not only the ragtime and blues guitar that I was learning at the time, but also my outlook on music in general. Robbie’s playing and singing seemed to evoke that longing for peace that all human beings dream of, and I knew that I had found something special. I remember thinking, and still do, that Robbie’s music exemplified a direction toward raw expression of the heart and soul that I also wanted to find in myself.
The compilation begins with a piece by Germany’s Steffen Basho-Junghans, titled “Rolling Thunder Variation II”. Basho-Junghans is one of my favorite guitarists around today, and this piece gets the blood flowing… moving to a fiery pace within the first minute, and eventually slowing back down. For those unfamiliar, Steffen has been greatly influenced by the works of Robbie over the years, but brings his own fresh and modern spirit to the steel-string guitar.
Helena Espvall’s “Travessa Do Cabral” follows, and is a moody, dark and murky work played on cello and electronics. Helena’s piece is unlike anything ever created by Robbie, although some of the intervals do remind me of his compositions… the track may surprise those expecting a guitar only tribute. Philadelphia’s Meg Baird is up next with “Moving Up a Ways”. Though I had not heard much of Meg’s solo work before, I was pleasantly surprised by her beautiful cover of this Basho classic! Her guitar playing is great, and her voice will soothe and carry you. Her playing style, the way she pushes off of the notes, is strong and enjoyable. It is nice to hear a female musician covering the territory of a Basho composition.
Meg Baird – “Moving Up a Ways”
Glenn Jones “1337 Shattuck Avenue, Apartment D” is the next piece. I had read and enjoyed Glenn’s liner notes for other releases before my friend and tour-mate Mike Tamburo first got me into Glenn’s Against Which the Sea Continually Beats. I have enjoyed the spirit and music of Glenn Jones ever since, and this piece is no exception, starting off with a slow introduction and moving into the heights in a rhythmic section. This song evoked in me a feeling of desolation, leading to shimmers of hope. “1337 Shattuck Ave…” is followed by Arborea’s “Blue Crystal Fire”, which is simply a great take on this moving piece, and features slow, waltz-like guitar and enchanting female vocals. Basho’s original can be found on Visions of the Country. Arborea’s Buck Curran is the man responsible for putting this compliation together.
Ireland’s Cian Nugent is up next with an original composition, titled “Odour of Plums”. Cian has taken the name of this piece from Robbie’s spoken poetry in “A North American Raga (The Plumstar)”. This is my first introduction to Cian’s music. Most of his playing on this piece is stark and slow, but sometimes flows into faster tempos. Cian is twenty-one years old, and it’s great to hear a track on this collection by an up-and-coming young guitarist who has taken notice of Basho. I’m looking forward to hearing more by Cian!
Cian Nugent – “Odour of Plums”
The next piece is the oud player Rahim Alhaj’s “Baghdad AlThania”. This beautiful composition is a wonderful contribution to the disc, and showcases with the oud some of the musical traditions that Robbie was influenced by. This is the first I have heard of Rahim’s work, but I will be keeping an eye out for his recordings in the future. Fern Knight’s cover of “Song For the Queen” follows. The original Basho recording can be heard on Venus in Cancer. This version employs nylon guitar, which works very well with the piece, though the added electric guitar sometimes flows well with the instrumentation, and other times seems to noodle. “Rocky Mountain Variations” by Steffen Basho-Junghans ends the compilation, and reminded me of a continuation of Robbie’s “Rocky Mountain Raga”, but with Steffen’s own touch. Another beautiful, majestic Basho-Junghans composition to send you up soaring into the clouds.
I am usually weary of “tribute” compilations, but it is obvious that We are all one, In the Sun has a purpose, and is a great effort on the part of Buck Curran and Important Records. If you love Robbie Basho and solo guitar/instrumental music this would be a supreme collection of both prominent and up-and-coming musicians to have around. May the music and spirit of Robbie Basho live on forever.