Jack Rose and Glenn Jones: Tchai Ovna, Otago Lane, Glasgow, Thursday 18th November
Both guitarists recorded a session for the Peel show while they were on tour - read about it here.
First impression on opening the small door is that this is not your usual venue.
An Oriental-themed tea room with a decidedly hippy clientele, Tchai Ovna takes
intimacy to a new extreme. Tonight's audience mostly stands between the battered
sofas and tables, trying not to knock the Buddhas and hookahs off the shelves.
It's not easy to see the stage unless you're at the front, which is a shame,
as part of the reason for coming to a gig like this is to watch the artists
in action. Both of these American acoustic guitarists acknowledge their debt
to friend and mentor John Fahey, the influential guitarist who died in 2001.
As Jack Rose quips at one point, they are "riding his ass to the bank".
Like Fahey, Glenn Jones and Jack Rose enjoy pushing the boundaries of what the acoustic guitar can sound like. Taking inspiration from the different scales used in the Eastern hemisphere (appropriately for tonight's surroundings), they spend a considerable portion of the evening tuning their 12-strings in unusual ways - though a little frustrating for the audience, as Jack says at one point "it's worth the wait". The richness of timbre that results is a joy to the ears, filling the small cave-like space with a hypnotic swirl of strange chords and unfamiliar harmonics. It combines perfectly with the exotic smells of Oriental teas. The atmosphere is at times magical, and the crowd is utterly silent throughout the performances.
Neither artist sings, but the complexity of the playing means there is plenty to concentrate the ear on. At least tonight, Glenn Jones is the more conventional guitarist. He displays very nimble fingers as he plucks out long compositions of intricate yet heartfelt arpeggios, often bending the notes to add expression. Despite some of the eccentric tunings, in the emotional content and chord changes there is a deep sense of The Blues - there's a definite American folk flavour to most of the songs. It's impossible not to compare the sound to John Fahey, and Glenn dedicates one (if not all) of his tunes to his friend. He steps down after six songs and the crowd show their appreciation with plenty of noise.
Jack Rose takes the stage, and it's clear he's been sipping some of the more Indian tea varieties as he begins with a couple of long, sitar-like ragas. Freed from the Western conventions of chord-based song structure, it's fascinating to hear emotions expressed through discord and harmonics as well as melody. Jack is so jaw-droppingly skilful, with his plucking and sometimes Flamenco-stlye strumming, it often sounds like two or three guitarists up there. People are swaying with their eyes shut, losing themselves in musical meditation.
Then the bottleneck comes out, and Jack begins to display his Virginian country
roots - though it's country that's been to Goa, country and Eastern perhaps.
He moves easily from raga to ragtime, especially when Glenn joins him for a
rousing up-tempo number at the end. For an encore Jack picks out a simple bluesy
song on a coventionally tuned six-string. After all the rich-timbred 12-string
and lap-guitar action, this rings out pure and true, cleansing the musical palate
like a sorbet after a heavy meal. Though it's great to travel to exotic places,
it's comforting to come home, too. A small pocket of Glasgow goes out into the
cold with expanded minds and a warm feeling inside - and not just from the tea.
These two unassuming musical explorers just proved that the acoustic guitar
can still travel to places nobody knew existed.
Celtic Roots BBC
Vhf Rec. Jack Rose : Two Originals of ....
– Red Horse, White Mule & Opium Musick -(US,rec.2001,2003,rei.2004)*****
While Jack Rose also is part of the group Pelt, it’s with these albums
that his talent as a guitarist flourishes. This is a compilation of his first
two solo LP’s, together about 70 minutes of sonic bliss. I’m very
happy for this renewed attention on the Takoma guitar styles, and the further
development of them, by people like Steffen Basho-Junghans, or Glenn Jones.
Jack Rose seems to get profit from it, for he might get to similar results instinctually
plowing the fields in what the new generations are digging into deeper.
On the first album with the first 4 tracks, “Red Horse”, “Dark was the Night”, “Cold was the Ground” (Johnson), “White Mule” & “White Mule II” for Jack Rose this is a fingerpicking exploration to the direction of the guitar-raga, spontaneously developed to that specific natural feel of it. “Hide the Whiskey (Blues for the Colonel)” is much more a kind of bluesguitar experiment. In between the recordings of both albums, the liner notes say Jack Rose learned the secrets of the ragtime. Dr. Chattanooga Red, it says, asked on his deathbed to bring its essence over to the next century. I don’t notice any direct ragtime influence, but I do hear some very interesting explorations which combine raga and blues improvisations and various kinds of fingerpicking developments (especially in "Linden Ave Stomp" (Rose, Jones) and “Mountaintop Lamento”. The first track, “Yaman Blues”, is a very beautiful raga-like guitar playing with accompanying (Indian) tampura. The last track, “Black Pearls” is another interesting composition. It starts and ends with flights of a train-like wall of guitar sound, in between more raga-like fingerpicking. Very organic. Here I must still admit to readers of my reviews, that myself I’m not so specialised, I’m not even a musician, I can only try to describe what I hear as a music listener. What I surely can emphasize is that 9 $ for such an adventurous and pleasant album of almost 70 minutes is nothing compared to the treasure you get for it !!
Psychedelic folk website, Holland
VHF Rec. Jack Rose : Raag Manifestos (US,2004)*****
The music is played as if meant for delivering a kind of 'raga manifesto' for
acoustic guitar, directing and pointing all energy in that direction. With a
kind of strumming drone effect, with fingerpicking evolution and some intertangling
evolution, Jack Rose plays on a few tracks with more energy, and perhaps some
aggression compared with what I heard before. This can be heard on “Black
Pearls From The River”, a track amongst more relaxed moments. Also on
“Hart Crane's Old Boyfriends” he’s almost "attacking"
the guitar strings, creating a denser atmosphere, moving towards an almost out
of control meta-acting / directing towards other dimensional realms, by creating
an extra drone-like brooding energy, leaving behind some additional drones and
echo, which is boozed up by Ian Nagoski’s electronica-production work
(-this guy is known for his minimal texture solo releases-).
“Tower Of Babel” and “Road” on the other hand are welcome-at-the-right time, and work as contra-impulses, with pure acoustic finger-picking raga which was track recorded live. One more track,
“Crossing the Great Waters" has also tabla added by Eric Carbonara. Last track, “Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord” is a fine closer, in a calm, and this time, a more bluesy American styled mode.
The CD was published in a limited edition. It was difficult to obtain this, because when I ordered it (in Europe) as soon as it came out, after many weeks of waiting, I was told it was sold out or deleted. Luckily I could still find my copy through some distributor on the net.
Psychedelic folk website, Holland
Hung Far Low CDR review
Red Horse, White Mule LP review
Jack Rose has been in Pelt for a while now and has been an integral force in
their stunning output over the past five-ish years. While the band is best known
for sprawling tones, spontaneity and occasional dissonance, Rose has found the
time to extract himself from this formula for two releases that demonstrate
his remarkable skill as a blues guitarist. In a little more than a year, Rose's
acoustic side has issued a CDR and an LP (both in limited quantities) that have
been uniformly praised by all those fortunate enough heard them. The CDR, Hung
Far Low, Portland, Oregon, first saw the light of day as a largely tour-only
release in 2001. It was far too brief, but inspired covers, such as Mississippi
John Hurt's "Nobody's Business," demonstrated that Rose possessed
a definite talent that had never been expressed in this way with Pelt. Red Horse,
White Mule (Eclipse Records, from an edition of 318 copies) plays for thirty-five
minutes and is short, like it's predecessor. That said, those minutes have the
ability to completely transport the listener, and are destined to be played
over and over again.
The material is very emotional and intense. Over every bit of new music I've heard this year, regardless of the source, not one other album contains as much of the performer's soul as this LP. Rose has undeniably poured himself into his writing, as well as this particular performance. No matter what I do to try to explain this record, I know that I'll fall short of Kisan Nagai's massive essay from the back of the LP cover. To quote him, "it can truly be said that Jack Rose has the Blues." While that line reeks of hyperbole and cliché, one listen to the LP will reveal that the statement is completely accurate and wholly appropriate.
"Red Horse" is the album's side-long first track. It is a sixteen-minute epic that is full of quiet authority. It starts off with a few attention-grabbing strums intermixed with a little bit of picking that reveals the song's overall melody. This sort of structure moves along for a minute or so until the tune's drive really begins to take shape. Rose is content to kick the pace into overdrive from time to time within the number, generating an incredibly fast picking pace at several points along the track's duration. From start to finish, the track remains captivating.
The LP's second side starts with "Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground." The track's sound, from the playing style to the material, completely resembles a modern-day impression of all the great delta blues masters. Rose has to be making them all smile. "White Mule part 1" is powered by a distinctly circular rhythm. It rolls and churns for a brief three minutes before segueing into "White Mule part 2". The second portion slows down while retaining a bit of the first's lyrical drive. This trend continues throughout the rest of the track, along with the occasional ebb and flow in guitar speed. The end product is fully mesmerizing. The album closes out with "Hide the Whiskey (Blues for the Colonel)." Nearly dissonant hard picking takes shape and forms a unified and expressive blues riff before falling apart again right as the needle lifts off the vinyl.
Red Horse, White Mule is one of those moments where substance and style meet and harmoniously become one. The acoustic is an uncomplicated instrument that can produce so many different types of sounds. While it is debatable whether or not traditional blues represents a type of music that is more "pure" or "true" than other forms, I think there can be no debate as to the emotional impact that can come from the blues when they are properly played. Jack Rose is a new and important voice within the genre and this LP is simply fantastic.
While on the topic of Jack and other things Pelt, Klang's latest offering in the Klang Archives series is an ultra limited (40 copies) CDR of a Pelt show from Houston in 2001. Jump on over to klang.org or Eclipse Records and try to find a copy if they're still available. As phenomenal as Pelt's double disc Ayahuasca was, this is one of the best Pelt releases in the last few years. Recorded on May 16, 2001, Houston 2001 is thirty-one minutes of Pelt hitting all of the proper notes in stride. The disc consists of three untitled tracks, but each one definitely hits a chord and works. The first two tracks are shorter, each utilizing a different part of Pelt's drone armada. The centerpiece is the discs final track - twenty minutes of layered goodness. Brevity is of no concern when it comes to this disc. Pick it up now while you still have a chance.
Wooden Guitar review
A compilation has the potential to become legendary. When presenting a set
of related artists, a compilation has the power to inspire and create legions
of followers, birthing entire scenes. Although most are forgotten, some, like
Nuggets and C-86, become the definitive documents of a movement. Others, like
No New York and Hoisting the Black Flag, become the breeding grounds for many
Locust Music's Wooden Guitar doesn't feature many different artists—four performers over five tracks in seventy minutes—but shows plenty of diversity within the limits of the instrumentation. This idea is to showcase extended compositions by modern acoustic guitar innovators, without overdubs or additional accompaniment. These four artists—Jack Rose, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Tetuzi Akiyama and Richard Bishop—are perhaps the leading acoustic guitarists of this day and age. And in sticking to the purity of the acoustic instrument—refusing to use electronics, effects or overdubs—Wooden Guitar presents these artists' visions in a way that may become, well, legendary.
Jack Rose opens the disc with a continuation of the "Red Horse" theme from his first solo album. It's a stunning way to begin the disc, as it surrounds the listener with a maelstrom of tones—flurries of notes that form a staggering melodic progression. The front of the package uses the term "deltadelica," and while I initially winced at the word, it's really an appropriate term to describe this style. I haven't heard Rose's newest disc, but I'll say that "Red Horse II" is the pinnacle of his career to date (including his work with Pelt). It manages to be focused and scattered at the same time, surging with what is almost violence as the echoing clang of the strings carries the melody.
Steffen Basho-Junghans is split onto two tracks, the lengthy "A North Thuringian Raga" and the shorter "Smiling Penguins". Basho-Junghans is notable for getting some of the most amazing, inhuman sounds I have ever heard out of an acoustic guitar on his previous records. However, "North Thuringian Raga" is surprisingly closer to the Jack Rose track than anything on Basho-Junghans' earlier works (that I have heard). Sticking with a fairly conventional approach (for him), Basho-Junghans plays in a quick strumming manner, interspersed with fingerpicking, reminding me a bit of Sir Richard Bishop's epic "Rasheed." It's a piece that really shows Basho-Junghans' range, while "Smiling Penguins" is there to provide a brief outlet for his more experimental side. Not that "Smiling Penguins" doesn't have a human element—there's a comfortable ambience in the way his guitar resonates, and his short, staccato notes shimmer like warm rain.
It's Tetuzi Akiyama who stands out as the coldest track on this disc, and it's placed right in the middle. Space is the motif of this 20 minute track, as you can hear his guitar's body vibrating throughout each weird tone cluster. Recalling the sparse, scattered gestures of Jandek, "Time Between" might be named after the time between each note, for each pluck hangs in suspended animation. It breaks up the flow of Wooden Guitar somewhat, and while Akiyama's work is every bit as fascinating as the other members of this compilation, this lull is the only criticism I have for this disc.
Closing the disc is Sir Richard Bishop, whose Salvador Kali record is one of this reviewer's favorite records of probably the entire 1990's. Initially disappointing to me, "Corpuscle" merely takes a very long time to get going. Once it does it's as dazzling as any of his earlier work, solo or not. Bishop uses what is perhaps the most conventional technique, opting for the frenetic strum instead of complex fingerpicking. The Middle Eastern influence adds to the mystery of this piece; it's dark and exotic, like the finest moments of Bishop's Sun City Girls. The strings are strummed very bluntly, which creates a tense mood to the piece. It's only about halfway through that he begins to develop some momentum. Like the aforementioned "Rasheed," Bishop lets inertia drive this piece, getting a quick, somewhat aggressive theme going before stopping suddenly. And just when you get your bearings, he lurches forward again. After fifteen minutes, I'm caught up in the dizziness, lost in the harmonic movement and wishing it would never end.
Locust is planning to release separate records by all artists on this compilation, to which I salute them. Wooden Guitar is one of the finest examples of the avant-garde embracing folk elements. Relentlessly pursuing new approaches to this most conservative of instruments, these artists don't lose sight of tradition. Instead of pure aural exploration, we are given five compositions that exhibit a good degree of soul. Each track, with maybe the exception of the Akiyama, makes me want to throw up my hands in excitement, as I can feel the simple power of the acoustic guitar washing over my body. And if this compilation inspires even just some of it's listeners to reconsider their approach to the acoustic guitar, then perhaps a legend will be made.
Opium Musick review
Last year, Jack Rose stepped out from behind the dense, droning walls he and
his bandmates had erected in Pelt. His first solo LP, Red Horse, White Mule,
proved to be among a rare class of acoustic guitarists, propelling him to the
fore of the swelling avant garde folk scene that largely revolves around the
Northeast US. In the time since he has released a very limited CDR of ragtime
under the moniker Doctor Ragtime, in addition to playing a fair amount of shows
across the US. After seeing him play and getting a taste of some of the new
material, I anxiously awaited the new LP.
And finally, Opium Musick, now spins on my record player. Jack's beautiful fingerpicking envelops my room in graceful cascading lines. The opening and closing tracks, "Yaman Blues" and "Black Pearls," give way to a darker mood and simmering meditation. The first pits a droning tampura (basically sounds like a sitar) against Jack's acoustic slide guitar. "Black Pearls" begins as a maelstrom of booming acoustic guitars before easing into a furious exercise in near-restraint. Closing out side 1 is "Linden Ave Stomp" which was co-written by Cul de Sac's own guitar virtuoso, Glenn Jones. A bouncy and active song, it hints at the Doctor Ragtime CDR in its unabashedly old-timey sound. "Mountaintop Lamento" starts off the second side with a gentle ebbing and delicately interweaving melodies.
With Fahey gone and Kottke collaborating with members of Phish, Jack's two LPs have placed him at the head of a small (but very welcome) pack of acoustic guitarists (Steffan Basho-Junghans, Glenn Jones, Sir Richard Bishop, Ben Chasney), who are pushing themselves towards a thrilling revolution.
Raag Manifestos Review
Pelt's Jack Rose is back with another masterful acoustic guitar record. Last year's Wooden Guitar compilation on Locust Music seems to have successfully resurrected the genre that developed around John Fahey, Robbie Basho, Sandy Bull, and other brilliant minimal folk instrumentalists in the 1960s. There may be plenty of other contemporary artists who are revisiting this style of music with some competence, but not one of them is doing it with even half of Rose's originality and taste. His guitar playing has a lyrical expressiveness and Eastern influence that evokes the spirit of La Monte Young's work with Pandit Pran Nath. Raag Manifestos is completely incredible, easily as good as the Two Originals Of CD that came out a couple of months back. Transcendent, bordering on religious, don't be surprised if you find your jaw hanging open in awe from start to finish. [RH] Other Music Web Site
Jack Rose: Two Originals of... (Beautiful Happiness)
NINE years of battling rock conventions with the folksy improvisers Pelt have seen Jack Rose arrive at outsider-artist status by default. If his first two solo albums, collected here in one great package, seem in thrall to the cyclical acoustic-guitar stylings of the late John Fahey, then it's as likely that Rose reached Fahey's graceful state of stasis by experiment as by emulation. Rose's guitar-playing strips pre-war American blues and folk back to their most simple signature phrases, then expands and explodes what remains into boundless imaginary deltas where time and tunes stand still. Perhaps Rose's greatest debt to Fahey is a penchant for hopefully spurious sleeve notes, so the final word must go to the Japanese "blues scholar" Kisan Nagai: "It can truly be said that Jack Rose has the blues". 3/3 stars. Stewart Lee.
Sunday Times London
There have been a lot of famous Rose's in the world, but few that I feel proud to share my namesake with. The two most recent that come to my mind are Pete and Axl Rose. Pete Rose is a lying scoundrel, while Axl is just a total waste of life. But recently, I discovered Pelt and the music of Jack Rose. Aside from my parents, I don't know if there's anyone who I'd rather share a name with. Jack Rose makes amazingly beautiful music, and on this VHF reissue of two old vinyl-only albums, he does it with little more than an acoustic guitar. I missed out on both "Opium Musick" and "Red Horse, White Mule" in their original forms, so this CD is a welcome addition to my collection.
Rose's music reminds me a lot of good visual art. Whenever I look at paintings or photographs that really strike a chord with me, it's often hard to describe why. My knowledge of how to make art is rudimentary at best, but it's never the technical skill of an artist that impresses me most. I just don’t notice, even for music, an artform I know a lot more about. It is obvious that Rose has a great deal of technical ability on the guitar, but I don't think it is all that important. For me, it's his ability to feel a moment and translate it into musical expression. There are many artists that can do this, but few do it as well and with as little.
"White Mule II" gives off the impression of a person anxiously awaiting the return of their significant other. The anxiety continually builds as the guitar paces back and forth from room to room. As the pacing picks up, the butterflies are flying circles around your stomach. It's as if they are each attached to a string, and subsequently your stomach is now in knots. The tension builds and builds until Rose brings is up to the final moment when your lover is to step off the plane. His playing quickens to lightning speed, and has an overwhelming hopefulness to it. It's like he can feel the smile on your face and wants it to grow wider through his playing. He achieves this and then some. It's a stunning track.
Some of the best pieces here are the short ones. "Linden Ave Stomp" clocks in under four minutes but, in that time, takes the listener through the backwaters of the Mississippi Delta. Blues overtures are mixed with Southern folk to create an exciting piece that teeters between promise and fear. The somber tones are consistently outdone by the calm and blithe notes, and in the end they win out. This is a song soaked in the summer heat of the South. I can smell the sweat dripping off Rose's brow. "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" is the shortest track on this record. It has all the sparseness of a grassy field that is surrounded by nothing but a blanket of stars, and all the anticipation of a teenager’s first kiss. Rose combines this into something unique, and something moving. Goddamn, this is good music!
The three longest tracks, though, are the real reasons to own this album. "Red Horse," "Yaman Blues," and "Mountaintop Lamento" are nothing short of brilliant; it is instrumental folk music that would even floor the late, great John Fahey. The latter of the three plays like a long lost love letter that evokes all the memories you tried to lay to rest. It is heartbreaking and beautiful; I even got teary-eyed during the last two minutes. As Rose moves through various quiet nuances, I imagine someone with a broken heart, shuffling through old pictures of better times, looking for reasons to continue. He packs so much emotion into his guitar picking, it's amazing. "Yaman Blues" is the Indian countryside. With a moaning sitar placed delicately underneath the surface, this feels more like a raga than any kind of blues. Rose's guitar rises and falls in succession, like a soaring bird dive-bombing and then rising toward the sun again. This song flows like the Ganges.
"Red Horse" is a bold way to begin this album, but it leaves no doubt as to the intention of the album and the talent of Rose. When I heard this song, the first word that came to mind was majestic. Something about this piece feels like it belongs in the court of a king. As Rose works the fret board like he owns it, his playing becomes hypnotic. I find myself just staring off into space, allowing the sound to consume me. The song takes me through a gambit of emotions, until I finally settle into a relaxed frame of mind where everything and everyone seems content. Like a true artist, Rose sets up the listener perfectly for the rest of this album. As soon as you're relaxed, you will be putty in his hands. "Two Originals" is Jack Rose's masterpiece. - Brad Rose