Audio Mixer: Brian Haran.
Recording information: Pine Box, NC (11/23/2014).
Photographer: Eric Marth.
Guitarist Daniel Bachman has been prolific. River, a double-length set issued by Three Lobed, is his sixth album in just the last four years, and his ninth since 2010. It is also the first set he has made in a proper studio. Masterfully recorded by Brian Haran at Pinebox in North Carolina, it was cut in a single day and is free of overdubs. The intimacy of the environment, combined with the care employed in capturing the best takes of these seven tunes, approach the immediacy, warmth, and excitement of his live performances. While Bachman's playing remains devoted to American acoustic guitar music from the Piedmont blues to the American Primitive traditions (he expertly covers fellow Virginians William Moore's "Old Country Rock" and Jack Rose's "Levee"), it has also evolved considerably. From the very beginning Bachman was capable of generating complex improvisational ideas and playing them at a furious, athletic pace. Here, he's far less concerned with speed and physicality. His technique is more relaxed and assured, allowing for in-the-moment ideas to flow more naturally through his beautifully constructed melodies. Opener "Won't You Cross Over to That Other Shore" is a case in point. With deep, mid-register strums, he deliberately asserts the tune's first cycle and harmonic framework. When the fingerpicking commences, one melody leaps forth with edges protruding from the repitition and gradually asserts three or four more in labyrinthine sequence, through several time signatures, and without losing sight of the tune's center. The dirgey slide blues of Rose's "Levee" offers a pronounced rhythmic palette that makes room for an intersection of drones and subtle, sun-dappled shadows. "Farnham" and the two-part "Song for the Setting Sun" are suite-like. When combined in sequence, they almost physically evoke the varying rural scenery coursing through country-gospel hymnody, crystalline, stomping Appalachian reels and rags, and song-like folk-blues reveries. Bachman closes River with a reprise of "Won't You Cross Over to That Other Shore." It mirrors the first one in compact form by commencing on a high-string strummed intro that shifts into American Primitive-esque bass string fingerpicking and ringing middle-register melodic statements that move elastically across waltz time. River is not only the work of a master guitarist, but also that of a sophisticated composer. Bachman's confidence in interpreting his own musical ideas on the fretboard is now equal to his skill in playing the lineage music that inspires him. ~ Thom Jurek