The highly anticipated new solo album from perhaps England's best known contemporary exponent of the banjo does not fail to live up to his reputation for virtuosity and un-conformity. Surely this year's most interesting solo banjo release; and yes, there are others.
There is something tangibly modern about Walsh's style, for me this new record exemplifies that more than previous releases.
Vaults and Chase Suite, two personal favorites, perfectly exemplify the sparse sound of the album, this gives the room for Walsh's banjo to breath; less truly is more. On 7/8s, Tom Chapman's percussion is reminiscent of Kan's Jim Goodwin is the perfect compliment to Walsh's brilliant tune, a piece soaked in Walsh's Scots and Celtic roots influences, is remarkably fresh.
Walsh manages to reflect the honesty and primitive beauty of the banjo, which for me, when played well is much more reflective of the human temperament than the guitar, there is something elemental about the banjo. Banish Set is a fantastic example of this powerfully primal evocation.
As for the songs, Leave this Land, perhaps more of a nod to than a song to Woody, is the stand out track. Tracing the peaks and troughs of a travelling musician, inspired by Walsh's own experiences of tearing himself away from New Zealand, this foot stomper is primed for covers. Accessible to a myriad contexts, I'm hoping to hear it round the proverbial campfire this summer.
Verging on the perpendicular doesn't whisk you off to windswept Scottish Highlands or a bootleggers Appalachia, it seats you firmly down in the here and now. There is nothing archaic about this record. An accomplishment surely all folk and roots artists hope for; fresh reinvention of the old.
|Donald Byron Wheatley: Moondogs And Mad Dogs||Charlie Dore: Dark Matter|
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