Saturday, January 05, 2019

Ross Hammond - Riding Dragons in Winter (Prescott Recordings, 2018)

Ross Hammond is a guitarist who defies labels, having played jazz, blues and folk music before settling into an intensely personal type of American primitive playing, adding some beautiful slide guitar playing that would make Son House proud to music that harkens back through Jack Rose and John Fahey to Charley Patton. This is a solo album for steel and resonator guitar with the music written especially for his wife and daughter. The sounds meld the diverse musics like raga, delta blues and Appalachian folk, combining these disparate musical forms into a unique and personal sound signature. He opens the album with "Codes," a track that is twice as long as any other piece on the album, building slowly and patiently with golden toned notes bending and rising like the early morning sun. The music gradually gathers speed, lifting off from the proverbial back porch and developing an improvised nature that is very impressive, incorporating the aspects of raga which add a further exotic feeling to the music, and the melding of the raga to slashing blues and the improvisational possibilities of jazz is remarkable. "Lazarus" has the longing tones of a spiritual or a ballad, before breaking into a complex and fast section, with fast strumming meeting a picked motif in a song that consists of many different and connected parts, strung together in real time. "Shapeshifting in the Morning" has a strong and insistent theme that gains power through repetition, building faster and more insistent, adding slide to move the performance in a different direction, one that is always evolving and developing, leading to a section of choppy chords where the music is relentless in its forward motion, showing all of the tools that the guitarist has available to him in the purpose of the song. "How Old Is Your Face" has an air of earthy mystery to it, with thick dark notes setting the tone for the song, and sharper slide sounds arcing overhead, making for an appealing mix. The slide takes hold, showering the ground with sparks that are quickly met with the darker toned notes and chords, enabling the push and pull of the sounds to create a powerful and propulsive dynamic. "We're Coming For You Paul" has an ominous dusky tone with some beautiful slide guitar playing balanced by heavily rhythmic strumming allowing the tune to gallop away at a fast pace that is characterized by constant activity and progress. This was an excellent album, and anyone with even a passing interest in acoustic guitar music of any genre should make sure to check it out. Riding Dragons in Winter -

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