Firelight, Terra Guitarra's latest, concerns itself with the discovery of fire as a ready-to-hand illumination source and all the changes in culture that evolution of thought and invention produced (think of going without lightbulbs, y'all, if you want a modern equivalent), and I think this accounts for its more serious nature as against the bulk of the last effort pondered in these pages…that and the fact that the lead player, the artistic polymath Bruce Hecksel, is, as is true art's wont, ceaselessly maturing and evolving, deepening. This is not to disparage the last CD, Dragonfly or modify my review of it (here—and, Jesus!, that was years ago??? seems like just yesterday!) in the least, not at all, but to say that, this time around, the classicalisms are notably more gravid and the intellectual ambiance discernably shifted.
Dragonfly had its upflight moments amid thoughtful terrain, but Firelight is moodier, inclined to a duskier pensivity, more than a small nod to past masters. Several standards are quoted or echoed in various passages, and, of course, Malaguena, covered here, remains one of the ne plus ultras of hyper-literate Hispanic musica. Once again, the ensemble is the duet of Hecksel and accompanist Julie Patchouli (hmmmm, any relation to Janet Planet?), both chiefly on guitars—Bruce the foreground, Patchouli his rhythm section—but also percussives, bass, and etc. Hecksel's the melodious lecturer, Patchouli the podium from which he exposits, and the lecture, all 13 cuts, provokes much inner reflection and memory resuscitation amid myriad lush images and a very poignant overlay in what the Germans call 'weltenschaung'.
I suppose I must confess to a certain notoriety of, past and present, being a buzzing gadfly hovering over the New Age quiche. My long-time readership knows this, it's no surprise, and John 'Boy Scout' Diliberto years ago discovered just what that meant (good guy, John, and not a bad critic; a tad too Establishment, however, for me, I'm afraid), but certain unrestrainable aestheticians put serious dents in what had been a crusty genre cynicism, and Terra Guitarra is among the latest of them. What I'll miss most as FAME joins history is the discovery of so much good music in the country and world, surprisingly so, and when people bitch that the scene is going to hell, I merely tell them to get their stodgy asses out of the mainstream and tune into the indies, where all the good stuff is hidden in mountains of Net data, many many surprises lurking in a periphery that should actually be front and center. There now is, ladies and gentlemen, more great music than at any time in this mucky planet's history, and, if you doubt, merely lay an ear to Firelight for confirmation.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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