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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Solo Guitar: Shane Parish and Ross Hammond

Shane Parish - Undertaker Please Drive Slow (Tzadik, 2016) ****

North Carolina's Shane Parish is the guitar half of the 'math-rock' duo Ahleuchatistas. The heady group plays extremely tight and calculated songs; however, on this solo acoustic guitar effort, parish lets the numbers go and embraces the deep musical heritage of Appalachia.

The album kicks off with 'Ain't No Grave', and the short unadorned piece leaves no emotional stone unturned – while it's mostly trepidation, some hope rides in between the strings. The vignette 'Trouble Will Soon Be Over' seem to offer some muted, expectant, joy of relief. 'Judgement' may have the most memorable refrain on the whole album, and Parish's use of dynamics, beyond the fretboard sounds, along with gut-felt phrasing, is haunting. 

The late night sounds of his guitar - hushed acoustics and dark timbres - lays the groundwork for the introspective interpretations of these old folk songs where death, loss, love and judgement are constants.

Ross Hammond - Follow Your Heart (Prescott, 2017) ****

California's Ross Hammond, from what I know, has always played from the gut. His jazz efforts culminated in the wonderful Humanity Suite a few years ago, which channeled his deep rooted Americana through free improvisation. Since then, Hammond has been  focusing attention on the acoustic guitar, releasing several solo and duo recordings. Follow you Heart is a beautifully recorded solo guitar album that channels a certain spiritual and Appalachian music feel.

Recorded at St. Paul’s Church in Sacramento, CA, the clarity of the recording - both in sound and spirit - is visceral. The album begins with the slow boiling 'Sinner Man' – a slide up the neck and then a pause ... a statement, a deep breath ... and then it begins in earnest: dark blues drenched intervals and open droning notes cradling a suspenseful melody. Other tunes, like the parenthetical title track 'Of Course We Will (Follow Your Heart)' germinated from a conversation between the guitarist and his young daughter, and it's open ended melody teems wistfully with hope, pride and determination.

Follow you heart is a beautiful recording available in vinyl, CD, and download.