Mariano Rodriguez - Praise the Road - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mariano Rodriguez - Praise the Road

by David Bruggink Rating:8 Release Date:2014-04-15

It's fascinating to consider some of the influences at work in the revived American primitive guitar movement. James Blackshaw, for instance, filters the folk, blues, and Indian roots of the Takoma label through the prism of minimalism and modern classical music, creating shimmering compositions which hint at medieval melancholy. William Tyler's ragas blossom into lush alt-country symphonies, impressive in their simultaneous complexity and accessibility.

In addition to honoring unjustly obscure guitarists like Robbie Basho, Kyle Fosburgh, co-owner of Minneapolis-based Grass-Tops Recording, is introducing some intriguing new voices to the scene (including his own). This welcome trend is continued in Grass-Tops' latest release, Praise the Road, by Argentine guitarist Mariano Rodriguez.

Given the stripped-down quality we've come to expect from most 'guitar' albums, Praise the Road is a surprisingly textured recording. The titular road seems to be a dusty, sun-soaked one, traveling from glowing mesa to perilous border town, from Appalachian hoedown ('Brewmaster's House') to sinister peyote session ('The Poisonous Chutney Recipe According to Mr. Joynes').

Acoustic guitar has tended to provide the core from which Grass-Tops' releases expand, but this album impresses with its sonic variety. Alongside Fahey and Kottke-inspired guitar are banjo, tabla, backwards noise experiments, and field recordings, together forming an album which evokes a magical vision of the Old West as well as any film.

For all the emphasis on rousing the listener's imagination, Rodriguez is equally concerned with letting his phenomenal guitar playing shine through. Highlight 'As the Days Grow Shorter, My Shadow Will Be Smaller' is a pristine, hopeful track which leaps nimbly between fingerpicking patterns as it gains momentum. The gospel-tinged title track recalls the simple but memorable melodies of the great Jack Rose's ragtime pieces.

Like Jack Rose, Rodriguez can also pull off compositions which are more free-form, like the woozy 'Poisonous Chutney Recipe', in which slide-guitar seems to cleverly convey a descent into madness, while the drones and backwards guitar of the churning, almost malevolent 'Ragalamas' bring to mind the immersing atmospheres found in Hindustani music.

With Praise the Road, Grass-Tops Recording continues to prove to be a label to follow - not just for its commitment to interesting guitar-based music, but for sublime music in general.

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