I mentioned this in an earlier review (Open Hand—here) but it bears repeating. I caught David Wilcox in concert down in Hermosa Beach many years ago at a small intimate venue not long after first hearing a couple of his songs at a record shop. The guy had a distinctive approach, a sophisticated guitar technique, and lyrics that struck the ear, inviting further exploration. Toulouse Engelhardt (here) opened for him and the chances just of catching Engelhardt are rare, so I couldn't possibly pass up the double-header. I still remember that gig, and one of the reasons was not only due to Wilcox's seductive singing and playing, the which no man or woman may ignore, but also a jaw-dropping ability to re-tune at lightning speed. Perhaps it's of no consequence, but I've seen many great guitarists in my time and never before and never since witnessed anyone handle a guitar as though it were an extrusion of his body in quite that way. More, he did it while talking to the audience, as though a kind of automatic process hardly worth minding. Sometimes it's the small things that let you really know you're in the presence of a master artist.
But then Wilcox has never been your average guy. Reverie stands him naked before the audience, as has ever been his wont, just man and guitar (and, of course, clothes—let's not take the metaphor too far!). If you'd care to hear just how important alternate tunings are to his work, they're all over his many CDs (this is the 17th!), but tip an ear to Dynamite in the Distance where you'll hear the instrument often seem to be a piano. Of course, Wilcox's exquisitely slow touch helps in that, but so does a maestro's knowledge of exactly how a palette can be arranged, colors mixed, hues deepened.
The title cut is an up-to-the-minute commentary on the unutterable corruption that has overtaken America (and most of the rest of the world), but it is not content to just editorialize. It becomes a call to action: "Let's the jam the culture's gears / There'll come a day when every head will bow in fear / I say the day is here", a sentiment much in line with Derrick Jensen's notion of bringing everything in the U.S. down and starting over again. I concur. In fact, Buster, a ditty about an dog's inerring judgement of human character almost acts as an ages-old paradigm for what just might cure our ills.
The political aside, Reverie is a troubadoric gatherum of tales, asides, gentle jeremiads, hale news from deep within and far without, and just about everything under the sun. Few can get away with the difficult art of just one man (or woman) and one guitar, but David Wilcox has been carrying it off with ease for a long time, investing the time-honored but much neglected trapeze act as finely wrought art in motion—oh, and the entire release is live, but with all audience noise stripped out, making immediacy an element of the sculpture.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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