Monday, September 10, 2012

Robbie Basho - Visions of the Country (Windham Hill, 1978)

Visions of the Country was the fifth album released by folk/new age label Windham Hill. When Windham Hill was bought out by Sony in 1980, this album was one of the few that didn't get reissued for national distribution. It's understandable, upon listening, why label execs felt Robbie Basho's work was inconsistent with the rest of Windham Hill's catalog. There's an intensity in these songs, especially in Basho's singing, that can't be found on their other recordings. The album is mostly comprised of fingerstyle songs that lilt between folk ballad and Basho's signature steel-string raga forms. Two haunting and emotional songs for piano, "Orphan's Lament" and the instrumental "Leaf In The Wind" start the second side. Like most of Basho's work, Visions of the Country is meditative and conjures pastoral images. Yet unique to this album is a prevailing sense of longing, obvious on the track "Orphans Lament" but more subdued and less directed on others. The songs are not sad, though. They have a feeling more akin to being alone with your thoughts in the wilderness, and the album is filled with allusions to nature. As the artist states in an essay on the insert, "I would paint for you a portrait of North America, as a beautiful woman, when she was young and untamed, untrammeled upon and unshamed." I've included images of the insert. And I apologize for the slight surface noise. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dave Ellis - Album (Sonet 1973)

I've chosen a personal favorite record for my first post. Released in 1973 on the Swedish jazz label Sonet, Album was the first solo effort by English singer/songwriter Dave Ellis. Now heralded as an influential acoustic guitar record, it suffered from lack of label support and it has remained well hidden. He has often been compared to contemporaries such as Bert Jansch, Nic Jones, and Davey Graham for his proficiency on guitar and complex compositions that incorporate many styles. Unlike much of the work by the aforementioned artists, the songs on Album don't tread too heavily on traditional folk territory. Each song is penned by Dave, and the heavy jazz influence and structural complexity make this album hard to categorize. Dave is still performing and releasing albums as part of the duo Dave & Boo. You can view their website and read more about Dave's career here. Listen to Album here.