Tag Archives: American Primitive

Review : Nick Jonah Davis “Of Time And Tides” LP/CD (Tompkins Square, 2011)

NJD - sleeveTompkins Square has had a few homerun records in the last year… William Tyler’s spellbinding Behold The Spirit, and the Beyond Berkeley Guitar compilation would be indispensable acoustic guitar albums in just about any era, but are definite standouts in today’s fuzzy, post-everything musical landscape. The label’s winning streak quietly continues with Nick Jonah Davis’ proper debut, Of Time And Tides.

Davis, though young, is not a completely new name on the underground acoustic scene. The Nottingham-based guitarist was featured on Imaginational Anthem Volume 4, and also had a digital release called Guitar Music Volume 1, both distributed by Tompkins Square. His playing on those records, though competent, was more or less indistinguishable from any of the other Fahey-channeling pickers of recent years, on either side of the pond. On his new album, though, Davis shows a fast-maturing compositional sense, and a welcome willingness to subtly expand on Fahey’s oft-imitated American Primitive style… and though there are a number of American sounding, boom-chick tunes here (such as the short and sweet title track) I feel that Davis more and more is letting his Englishness shine through… always a good thing! Continue reading

Review : Vin Du Select Qualitite “Solo Acoustic” LP Series (2010/2011, VDSQ Records)

VDSQ-OneI recently became aware of an intriguing new series of limited-edition LPs by a California label called Vin Du Select Qualitite. The Solo Acoustic series features a few marquee names (Thurston Moore and Chris Brokaw are probably the most well known) as well as some up and coming pickers. Many of these recordings aren’t strictly acoustic, with several of the players employing delay and looping effects, pickups et al, and the liberal overdubbage in evidence can sometimes stretch the term “solo” pretty thin… but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The packaging of these albums is consistent and simple: each disc features a white sleeve with a single-color, guitar related photo. The spartan design sense and the limited availability of these records are reminiscent of many of the privately pressed guitar albums of the ‘60s and ‘70s. In this article, I’ll give short reviews of the first six VDSQ LPs, some of which are already selling out of their initial runs. If you’re interested in any of these releases, I encourage you to act fast… these have “collector’s item” written all over them! Continue reading

Review : TOMO “Butterfly Dream and Other Guitar Works” CD (Subvalent, 2010)

tomo-butterfly-dream-and-other-guitar-works-album-coverI was excited to receive Butterfly Dream and Other Guitar Works, the debut guitar album by Japanese multi-instrumentalist, TOMO.  This would be the first work by a Japanese player I’ve written about; I was curious to hear how TOMO’s technique and approach to composition might vary from his American and European counterparts.

That being said, TOMO is no stranger to American guitar traditions, having lived in Missouri during his teens, where he learned finger picking and absorbed a variety of pre-war musical styles.  He cites a long list of American guitarists and composers as influences, in addition to Medieval and Renaissance lutists, Hawaiian slack-key players, Middle Eastern and Indian instrumentalists, all of which are paid homage on Butterfly Dream. Continue reading

Review : Marco Panella “Eastern Landscapes” LP (Tequila Sunrise/Auger Down, 2010)

Panela_EasternYou’ve been warned by your parents, by movies and television, and now you’re gonna hear it from me : looks can be deceiving.  When I first received Marco Panella’s latest, Eastern Landscapes, the press materials made reference to “American Primitive acoustica”, “layered landscapes” and “modal/dissonant jazz” in describing the sound of this LP… these, coupled with the hazy, gorgeous cover photograph, had me absolutely convinced that I was in for some kind of abstract drone-guitar record.  As it turns out, both the descriptions and my assumptions were somewhat off-mark.  Panella, whose previous work has focused on fringe pop and electronics, is actually a dyed-in-the-wool singer/songwriter, one who melds lo-fi, rock, and loose Americana with an intriguingly skewed compositional flare.

On first listen, many of the songs on Eastern Landscapes play like ragged slacker anthems, mostly thanks to Panella’s deadpan vocal delivery, which strikes me as a mixture of the timbre of D.Charles Speer and Soltero’s dogged tunefulness.  Panella isn’t trying to bowl anybody over with histrionics, and there is nary a trace of emotion in his voice on any of this album’s eight tracks; rather, the vocals act more as a base, a mainspring for a series of unpredictable arrangements, song structures and overdubs. Continue reading

New Music : Chuck Johnson “A Struggle, Not A Thought”

Bay area guitarist and composer Chuck Johnson has assembled his fingerstyle guitar compositions into a new digital-only collection called A Struggle, Not A Thought. Chuck is a great picker, and was featured on this summer’s fantastic Tompkins Square compilation Beyond Berkeley Guitar. You can stream the songs on Chuck’s Bandcamp page. You can also read our recent interview with Chuck here.