John Bisset

Smithy

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Like John Bisset's duo recordings released previously on 2:13, this solo session was recorded "site specific," inside an abandoned smithy under a viaduct in Stockport, England. The location gives the recording its unique character: noise from the streets (including an ambulance speeding by), a loud motor (ventilation?), even a passerby shouting an inquisitive "What are ye doing in here?" at the end of "Funiculi, Funicula." Not the most hi-fi of features for sure, these traits set the performance in time and space, and they hardly disturb from the listening experience. For this solo set on acoustic guitar, Bisset has chosen to use a number of folk songs from the widely spread Scottish Students' Song Book as springboards for free improvisations. Thus, tunes like "Cock Robin" and "Riding Down from Bangor" appear among angular, abstract pieces. In general though, Bisset has chosen to remain rather melodic -- even in unconventional ways. Simple melodic lines are stated note by note, chords are strummed string by string, the material is developed on the fly, dissonances and harsher gestures being fully integrated to the vocabulary. The guitarist is curious and willing to explore, but the music comes off natural-sounding like an evening by the campfire. Some pieces, like "Dedication" and "Fire," sound a little too tentative to feel right, but "Winter Rain," "Cock Robin," and "Summer -- The Birds of the Air..." are all lovely in their very own special way. At first listen, Smithy may sound closer to Leo Kottke, Anthony Phillips, or even Gordon Giltrap than Bisset's usual output as an improviser, but it soon appears obvious that fans of the aforementioned guitarists will be considerably confused by Bisset's approach.

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