Last Monday, my father called and said there’s a package waiting for me.
He told me it’s from Strange Attractors Audio House. That’s where I started to get excited. Yes. The new DVD by my two guitar mentors Glenn Jones and Jack Rose has arrived – titled The Things We Used To Do.
I mentioned it before, how the experience of waiting for a new album to arrive had undergone a significant change in the last couple of years, as there’s almost no album that needs to be waited for – it’s all out there in the cyberspace in many forms. But this DVD was an exception, it’s something I’ve been waiting for so long, and except for it being interesting to watch as a music fan, for me it has an added value of watching the techniques and styles of these two fav guitarists.
For those who aren’t following this blog, I should take a minute to explain a bit about me as a musician.
I try to keep my musical career out of this blog, but since this post is totally personal, with no attempts of being the official formal critic of something, I’ll just go ahead.
After discovering Bert Jansch‘s music and falling deeply in love with finger picking and singer/songwriters – I decided to become one myself. I tried it for couple of years but something always felt missing. I felt I wasn’t convincing enough with my singing, that I can’t convey the audience to the story and emotions I’m passing to them. So there was always a could of dissatisfaction there.
In 2007 I was in London with Rockfour – a band I’m managing, we went for a recording session in Abbey Road Studios (more details here, interesting story). I had a free night, day before, and I saw an ad in the street, of a Jack Rose show with the fantastic Ignatz. I went to the show just because I heard about Jack couple of times before. It was the first time I saw a Weissenborn guitar. My jaw dropped and I felt to connected to what he did. The morning after, still in London, I bought a resonator. A cheap one to see what it’s all about.
Three weeks later, I pulled Glenn’s This Is The Wind That Blows It Out. I had in for some time, but never really made the effort to listen to the entire album, being totally instrumental and stripped to one guitar track per song. Once again – I was blown away. This was the turning point where I realized I don’t need to sing nor be a singer/songwriter. I can express myself on acoustic guitar alone. An hour later, Brave Walls was ready.
Yair Yona – Brave Walls
Back to the DVD.
First thing in the DVD is, obviously, the menu. First option in the menu is ‘Duet’. This is no surprising, as this is truly a mutual collaboration of two, not a separated focus on each one. So when you select ‘play all’ – you see two guys, dressed casually, in a regular homey flat.
Jack with his Weissenborn, Glenn holds a 6 strings, lots of smiles and a dynamic of a love story between the two. They’re playing a killer version of Jack’s Linden Avenue Stomp and Miss May’s Place which was my favorite Jack track of the time, when I bought the limited Tequila Sunrise album. Highly recommended, btw.
I never met Glenn nor Jack, but after seeing these two clips, I immediately felt I know them somehow. The casualty of the whole event, and the fact no one’s making a fuss, no funny faces of stressful efforts during a solo, no tuxedos nor jackets and dress codes, just a journey through music and time. As appeared in the rest of the DVD, they are both shy and modest, but the cameras don’t interfere with their work, they are just being themselves and ignore everything else, so choosing this specific location of a flat in Brooklyn was the right thing to do.
Next in the menu are Jack’s solo works (8 songs). And right after – Glenn’s (6 songs). I don’t wanna sound like a silly fan, but really all the songs are performed perfectly. They’re both exciting and convincing and manage to tell a story, each and every song.
The sound quality is excellent, and it looks like it was recorded very easily, no heavy micing that interfere in the picture and the acoustic space is wonderful. As a result, the recording is rich and detailed: The touch of the plastic thumb pick in the string, the buzz of a dropped C bass string, sometimes an occasional breath – it’s all there and adds tremendously to the authenticity of this recording.
Jack is switching Weissenborn and Acoustic 6 strings while Glenn is on 6 and 12 strings acoustic and a banjo. His take of David And The Phoenix is something to learn in the school of performances. Jack’s playing is more aggressive, sharp and repetitive, syncopating melodies and rhythm with a sense of melancholy hovering above. Glenn’s playing and compositions often consists of long melodic lines, dreamy and visionary, tender and somewhat scattered.
The section of live performances is fantastic. Jack’s Cross The North Fork and St. Louis Blues is touching and hunting. Glenn’s emotions on Island 1/Against My Ruin are echoing in the entire room and show just how beautiful these two simple pieces are.
The closing chapter in the DVD is the interview Wire reporter Byron Coley.
One should be really good in what he does, if he’s chosen to have an interview with two instrumental guitarists who never sing, and sit with them for half an hour and talk about everything. Byron Coley turned out to be just that. He has a relaxed aura around him, the three sit next close to each other, almost knees touching knees as Glenn funnily remarks.
Coley asks them about their history and how about they came to know each other, about Fahey, Basho, contemporary guitarist, composition, about writing the liner notes (crucial issue when it comes to instrumental music) and other little jokes and many smiles.
The interview is actually an invitation to a friends’ gathering, and a rare peek to the inside world of the two musician. Glenn is more spoken and Jack is more quiet, but whenever one of them is talking, the other sits still and listens, almost no interruptions, and you can tell each one of them truly respects the other, and though the age difference (Glenn is older), they both treat each other as the teachers to one another.
Glenn Jones is a rare guitarist and soul and Jack, well, he’s Jack. He was bigger than life, and this DVD is a fantastic reminder of how humble this man was. It surprises me again and again how much can you ache the death of someone you never knew personally.
Almost two hours and a half is the total running time, which provides endless fantastic musical moments. I had troubles to watch it all at once during the week, even though I tried to clear 2.5 hours off my schedule, it’s just that each time I watched 20 minutes or so – I had to shut it down and run to my guitars and start play and write.
This DVD is far more than just good performances. For guitarists, and especially in this type of music, it’s a pack of 2.5 hours inspiration, insights and ideas.