Robbie Basho

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Bashovia Review

by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

At the time of this release, new age guitarists of the Kottke and Hedges school littered the countryside. Not so in 1967-1968. Back then, the acoustic guitar had just begun to broaden its language. The key innovator, John Fahey, started his own label to record himself and other like-minded guitarists. Robbie Basho, like Fahey, was fascinated by open tunings and all things Eastern. Unlike Fahey, however, Basho's Eastern poetry infused his music with an air of serenity. Bashovia collects material from The Falconer's Arm I, The Falconer's Arm II, and Song of the Stallion, recorded in 1967 and 1968. A number of pieces clock in at eight minutes or longer. "The Falconer's Arm" and the "Lost Lagoon Suite" gently rise and fall, moving quietly in and out of phases, tranquil and unhurried. In the spirit of the 17th century Japanese poet he named himself after, "Pavan Hindustan" evokes a poetic landscape of crisp, clean mountain air and still waters. "Song of the Snowy Ranges" throws a kink into these peaceful proceedings by adding vocals. While Basho's singing voice isn't bad, it is certainly an eccentric one and does distract from his guitar playing. The guitarist tosses in a touch of the blues on "Roses and Snow," giving the instrumental a warmer, more emotive feel than the purely Eastern ones. This warm mood evaporates, however, when a narrator begins a spoken, and thankfully brief, dialog. While such distractions are unfortunate, they're really minor glitches in the span of Basho's wonderful guitar playing. Guitar players and new age listeners will find the work of a rich and lyrical poet on Bashovia.

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