Last fall, Pittsburgh-based artist David Bernabo released a curious little item called Hexagon. It’s a short musical program on clear, lathe-cut vinyl… not so uncommon these days, but the record itself is hexagonal in shape and packaged in a machine-stitched vellum sleeve. Business as usual for David, as any who’ve followed his still young artistic career can attest. David draws from a seemingly endless pool of energy and ideas, routinely recasting his role: in visual arts as photographer, painter, videographer, and sculptor; in music as avant-rock band leader, symphonic composer, producer, ceremonial pianist and, on Hexagon, classical guitarist. In 2011, he founded the “Host Skull” brand for his new projects in collaboration with fellow musician, Will Dyar. Hexagon, which features David only, is the second item in their Host Skull Ongoing Box. Continue reading
Well, I’ve had myself a very busy year thus far… lots of travelling, playing, recording etc and it has resulted in a shortage of new material here on Work & Worry. I’ve amassed quite a backlog of very worthy discs for review consideration, and now that I’m determined to get back on that journalistic horse, one release in particular looms larger than most: a triple-disc set of previously unheard recordings from one of the most important fingerstyle guitarists of all time, Davy Graham. Many consider Graham to be “ground zero” for the guitar-centric British folk and blues revival of the early sixties, and indeed it is hard to imagine that landscape without his influence. Legendary guitarists like Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Wizz Jones, and a host of others have expressed a debt of gratitude to the man who is widely considered to be the first known practitioner of DADGAD tuning, an innovation that has had a massive affect on not only solo acoustic guitar playing, but also the continuing evolution of traditional Irish and Scottish music… but Graham’s reputation is based on so much more, like his introduction of Baroque-inspired counterpoint on the folk guitar (“Anji” to this day is still considered a total game changer) and his expansive use of musical motifs from every possible source, from traditional British Isles tunes to American folk, blues and jazz, to mysterious modal compositions from the orient and beyond. Continue reading
I became acquainted with the work of Richard Osborn when his piece, “A Dream Of Distant Summer,” appeared on Beyond Berkeley Guitar.¹ Work & Worry had the good fortune of interviewing each guitarist associated with that collection prior to its release in 2010. Richard’s interview from the series, as well as the liner notes from his latest album, Giving Voice: Guitar Explorations, portrays a very open sort of person, eager to discuss the details of his life and their effect on his music. I feel this is worth mentioning. For one, it’s refreshing to encounter someone who is straightforward; that makes no attempt to surround their endeavors in mystique. More importantly, Richard’s guitar playing sounds like an extension of his personality: not flashy or technique driven, but honest, and self aware. Continue reading
I sat down over tea with composer and multi-instrumentalist, Mike Tamburo, near his home in the Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh. We talked at length about the arc of his musical career from the middle half of last decade to present. Mike will be on tour starting in July, supporting his latest recording as Brother Ong, Mysteries of the Shahi Baaja Volumes 1 & 2.
W&W: It seems like whenever I’m out performing there will inevitably be someone who, after finding out I’m from Pittsburgh, asks: “How’s Mike Tamburo? Make sure you tell him that I said hello.”
W&W: The community that’s loosely formed around guitar music tends to be a small world. You’ve obviously made your way around it and left a positive impression. Can you reminisce for a bit about the years when you were touring extensively: where all did you go and who were some of your touring companions?
First of all, tell them all that I’m fine. (laughs again) In 2005, I decided that I wanted to permanently stay on tour. I’d just been through a traumatic shift in my life… honestly, at that time music was the only thing that I had. I didn’t really know where to start. A lot of people were connecting for the first time through the internet. So I started reaching out to people that way, booking shows during the three week period before I left. Nick Schillace found me and suggested we go out on tour together. I listened to his music, which was incredible, and said “let’s give it a try.” Other than talking to him on the phone I didn’t know anything about him or his life…
W&W: It’s a quick way to get to know someone!
(laughs) … definitely, and we were headed through a part of the country that’s a little bit harder to tour in, making our way from Detroit to Seattle. I remember South Dakota was very difficult. We ended up playing at a Christian Bookstore and I accidentally offended the promoter. It’s one of the memories that is sure to keep Nick and I close (laughs again)… we endured the “red” states together, and parts of the country that neither of us had any experience with. We had beautiful shows in Iowa City, Nebraska, Minneapolis (where I met Paul Metzger) and Seattle. By the end of it, Nick had become one of my closest friends. His older songs feel like the soundtrack to my life during that time. Continue reading
World Behind Curtains is the second album by Israeli guitarist and composer Yair Yona. His debut effort, Remember, was a charming nod to the work of American pickers like Glenn Jones and the late Jack Rose, with Yona building on those guitarists’ post-Takoma palette with a few indie rock touches and some ensemble playing to fill out the sound. Well if Remember sounded full, World Behind Curtains is bursting at the seams! Throughout the disc, Yona’s fiery acoustic fingerpicking is augmented by lush orchestration and carefully arranged instrumental interplay, ranging from the tender, to the sinister, to the ambitiously cinematic.
The tender: First single “It’s Not The Heat, It’s The Humidity” finds Yona in Bert Jansch mode, and the guitarist says that the track was inspired by Jansch’s 1979 masterpiece Avocet. It’s not hard to make that comparison, especially at the beginning of the track where Yona dances around the chord roots, sprinkling in some modal ornamentation and basically nailing Bert’s thumb-picked sound. When Yona is accompanied by Shira Shaked on piano, though, the piece really begins to soar… and when the two players are joined by a chorus of strings, “It’s Not The Heat…” sounds like nothing less than a full-on, big-budget Joe Boyd production. It’s a striking step forward for Yona.
The sinister: There is a foreboding quality to opener “Expatriates”, one that seems to echo the tension that is ever-building in Yona’s part of the world. As the track goes on, the twelve-string acoustic is swallowed up by caterwauling electric guitar noise, and this howling, haunted atmosphere reminds me of Japanese psych-rock heroes Ghost. Later in the disc, “Mad About You” comes out of the gate with tightly wound, energetic strumming before retreating to it’s moody main body, which gradually builds in intensity, picking up speed and eventually unfurling into an insane courting dance. The orchestral players are the stars in this song, and though Yona’s guitar ties the whole thing together, it’s their instrumental filigree that propels the track. Erek Kariel contributed the ambitious arrangements on this tune. Continue reading