Despite borrowing its name from one of the finest vocal musics the world has ever heard, Sacred Harp is the project Virginia-based guitarist Daniel Bachman. This self-released debut LP consists of six guitar-centric compositions. Right up my alley.
"Feast of the Green Corn" announces the beginning of the record with a pair of alternating laconic phrases and a bit of silence before bursting forth in fertile, rapid finger-picking and swelling electric tones. It's quite a beautiful, perhaps even a little cinematic, piece, with plenty of energy pulsing through its veins. Bachman isn't really exploring any uncharted territory on this piece but, man, it is a joy to listen to. "Brother Green" shifts things from bright, acoustic fingerpicking to swollen, raga-like electric tones and voice. Voice, rather than guitar, is actually the focus of the track. I can't tell if Bachman has lyrics or not but his drawn out exhalations come off as wordless either way. The latter part of the piece sees the spotlight shined back on a patient, echo-laden guitar solo. It's an abrupt shift in style from the first track and manages to work out okay, but despite being a good piece it feels a little amiss amongst the other material of the record. The final track of the side "Rappahannock (Jr)" (one of the counties in Virginia where this was recorded) shifts right back into the style of the opener. It actually probably one-ups the opener. It's another speedy, rather old-timey and richly melodic piece. There's a particularly phenomenal minor-key passage that marks one of my favorite moments of the record.
The track that garners the most needle drops from me is "Ditch Duets" which opens the second side. Scraping off the sweetness of the previous side, Bachman attacks a detuned acoustic guitar with aplomb. Perhaps with a similar intent to but separate style from Bill Orcutt, Bachman acts real rough 'n atonal throughout, sometimes purely and purposefully percussive and other times drooling out twisted lead lines. I'm pretty positive there is only a single guitar track on this piece i.e. no overdubbing and Bachman does quite a job pulling a number of sounds from his axe simultaneously. It buzzes, knocks heads, whines like it's got multiple personalities or something. Some damn interesting stuff, here's to hoping he's got more of this magic in his fingertips.
"Dogwood" follows instantly becoming another standout. Bachman imbues the templates of "Green Corn" and "Rappahannock" with the gutsy, rough and tumble nature of "Ditch Duets." The son of a bitch just jets along, mowing down everything in it's path. It's the shortest piece and there's probably not a lot I can say about it other than it rocks. After an interlude of strange detuned warbles, "Make for Me a Way" brings back the raga vibe of the first side with a sitar or similar instrument situated front and center. The sympathetic strings drone, there's a hi-pitched hiss coming from somewhere and Bachman wanders down the road with sitar in tow. What's odd is after an intial "cool down" period, Bachman suddenly heats up, applying the speedy fingerpicking of his other pieces to this Eastern set-up. I don't recall ever hearing somebody play sitar this fast and it's an unexpected but welcome extension of Bachman's style into a vastly different musical territory.
Apparitions at the Kenmore Plantation is a cool little record, and a very promising debut. The guy is still young and possesses some serious raw talent; I'm really interested to see how he develops it. Bachman has presented more than a few reasons to get excited about his future.
Bachman has distributed free mp3s of the record widely across the blogosphere but if you'd like to hear it on wax, you can hit up Mr. Bachman directly at danilbachman[at]gmail[dot]com.