Daniel Bachman’s Deliberate River

bachman-4Daniel Bachman’s new album River was released Tuesday on Three Lobed Records, prompting another round of reflective listening sessions. You can read our review of his last record here. This most recent release from the Virginia-born guitarist is his most confident; Bachman sits comfortably at the helm, guiding us through deeper narratives, his guitar becoming more vocal with each passing triplet. Inarguably, the angles have been rounded as Bachman treads resolutely around each corner. Bachman recorded this album with Brian Haran at the Pinebox (Hiss Golden Messenger, Vetiver, The Weather Station) in Durham, N.C. in one day. He says he has realized the potential for immediate emotion in his playing when small mistakes are left in and the perfect take is, perhaps, avoided, for fear of predictability of Kottke-esque virtuosity. Bachman has released over thirteen albums, cassettes, and EPs, in addition to a few live bootlegs that have made their way around the world. This is his first with boutique label Three Lobed Records, which has released material from fellow Virginian Jack Rose, Philadelphian Steve Gunn, New Yorker Wooden Wand (James Jackson Toth).bachman-7

The album is named River, but is dedicated more specifically to the Rappahannock River of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A small description on the inside of the gatefold reads, “As the river runs from the mountains to the Chesapeake, hardwods give way to loblolly pines and the rolling hillsides of the Piedmont fall away to the flat land of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. The river divides north and south, mountain and bay and, at one point in time, it even separated two great armies.” Bachman is using the river to speak about the land he is from, how it touches many and acts as a border, never changing. Like the body of water for which the album is titled, River has rapids, eddies, and sediment disrupting the purity of the water. But these behavioral quirks make and name the river. In Algonquian, one says  lappihanne, translating to “river of quick rising water.” Daniel rides this river and comes out just like it: meandering.

bachman-8The first track is titled “Won’t You Cross Over To That Other Shore,” and is over fourteen minutes long, a classic brazen flourish from our twenty-five-year-old guitarist. It’s as if he must get this out of his system, or get it out of our system, to clear the palate and be led. The rest of the album follows the comfortable pacing mentioned earlier. “Farnham” closes side A and is a brilliant example of the sense of melody and control Bachman has been developing. This track in particular evokes such strong American imagery, the short description of the Rappahannock almost becomes redundant; synesthetically, I see the river in the melodies. Now, better than before, Bachman slows and rights the ship, much like Fahey, who began to feel the touch in the early part of the 70s on releases like America (thank you, Marshall, for that insight). Before finishing the album with a reprise of the opening track, Bachman covers a William Moore’s “Old Country Rock,” a song that goes back to at least 1928, a testament to Bachman’s (like Fahey’s, et al.) undying admiration of American music’s pioneers, those who shaped what we regard as the foundation of uniquely American contributions to the world’s musicality. In regular folk music fashion, Bachman takes the song and reappropriates it to fit within his catalogued niche.

bachman-3I got to see Bachman last week amidst an American tour with Belgian musician Ignatz. The two recently completed European dates and are now covering the American continent. Like Bachman, Ignatz relies on fingerpicked guitar, but sends it, and his voice, through a mixer with particular effects giving the overall tonality a lo-fi sample-like quality, as if he has been beamed in from another time, lost through the decades as an unknown European musician playing undulating, mystic, experimental folk songs from a volk that has yet to be discovered. Or perhaps ignatz 2more possibly, muziek from the future. Bachman followed, playing mostly from the new album, starting the set with a gapless transition from the sound check, turning the opening number into a twenty minute tapestry. It took me all but twenty minutes to realize that he hadn’t stopped, and appropriately, as soon as I made this discovery, Bachman magically thanked the crowd and then began his second number. I suppose that’s what one descibes as enthrallment.

Buy Bachman’s River here.

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