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Gongfarmer 18

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Album Review

One of those forgotten American experimental musicians who had given up finding understanding in the pre-Internet age, Jim McAuley has recently resurfaced thanks to Nels Cline's work as a facilitator on the West Coast scene. Following the release of the Acoustic Guitar Trio's saluted album on Derek Bailey's Incus label, McAuley delivered this exquisite album of solo acoustic guitar. A collection of 11 pieces for classical, 12-string, steel string, and prepared parlor guitar, Gongfarmer 18 is a tribute to the guitarist's musicianship and imagination, both wild. All but one of these pieces are composed, at least in part. McAuley's writing draws strongly from the folk guitar tradition, but reconfigures its references with elements from contemporary music and free improvisation. The result brings to mind the rootsy experimental tinge of John Fahey, the virtuosic sleekness of early Anthony Phillips, and the good-humored inventions of Daniel Heïkalo and Arthur Bull. By all means, this music should be difficult for the listener, but it's not. McAuley invests so much feeling in his writing and there is such truth in the performances that one cannot help being moved by the unusual melodicism of these tunes. The tender "Nika's Waltz," the Segovia-like "Stone Cone," and the two rootsy "Blues for Wally Blanchette" (tributes to free jazz legend John Carter) have an immediate quality to them that acoustic guitar fans from any horizon should be able to appreciate. The other pieces are just as gorgeous, but they do require more intensive listens and an open mind. Heartily recommended. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Gongfarmer 18, Jim McAuley
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