Various Artist Compilations - Beyond Berkeley Guitar
A short but rich and generous collection nonetheless, "Beyond Berkeley Guitar" is a peek at some of the current poetic solo acoustic guitarists usually lumped in together under the American Primitive genre, as attentive disciples of John Fahey who have taken his ideas and run with them. There is some obvious truth to that: Fahey was the first to combine country blues, waltzes, folk and rags, writing intricate solo guitar pieces within that mix, with long titles that suggested a hermetic, mythical America that could primarily be understood through sound.
The nine songs here reflect that achievement, but do not rest on mere homage. While Aaron Sheppard's "the Transmigration of the Old West" and "Redwood Regional Park Blues : Between Hay & Grass" by Ava Mendoza are the most Fahey-like in tone, each, through their chops and emotional engagement, create their own space within the Takoma framework. Another Fahey-esque track, Lucas Boilon's "Studies Of The Oak As Pertaining To Druidic Rites Of Passage" is a stunning track, one which reaches deep into a private, trance-like hoodoo that is more personal than the other songs here.
In terms of the personal and poetic, Trevor Healy's "Wrapped in Water" and Sean Smith's "Ourselves When We Are Real" are driven as much by emotion as by technique, and feature some of the most moving melodies of the set."Beyond Berkeley Guitar" is a brilliant, tasteful sampler of solo guitar today, music that reflects the achievements of certain mentors, but which, through artists such as those represented here, have perpetuated an idiosyncratic, but satisfying and rich genre that, to these ears, endlessly has rewards to offer the attentive listener.
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