William Tyler

Goes West

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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger

Although its title suggests a continuation of the pastoral Americana meditations from 2016's wondrous Modern Country, guitarist William Tyler's fourth solo outing is in fact a brighter, occasionally frolicsome set, rife with sublime melodies and executed with an understated confidence. Its title, Goes West, refers not to the dusty cross-country voyages that inspired its predecessor, but to Tyler's recent relocation from his native Nashville to sunny Los Angeles. As on Modern Country, the all-instrumental Goes West again employs a full band, though its leader sticks solely to acoustic guitar with Meg Duffy joining him on electric guitar, James Anthony Wallace on piano, Griffin Goldsmith on drums, and co-producer Bradley Cook covering bass, synths, and a smattering of other instruments. In a perfectly suited match-up, guitar icon and tonal forebear Bill Frisell also makes a guest appearance, while Tucker Martine rounds out the sessions' crew as engineer and co-producer. Since he's a seasoned session guitarist and stylistically diverse collaborator, Tyler's solo career -- which began with 2010's mostly acoustic Behold the Spirit -- has been remarkably consistent. Each release has simultaneously revealed some new aspect of his craftsmanship and built off of the character of its predecessor. Opening with the playful multi-sectioned suite, "Alpine Star," Goes West is built around some of the most articulate playing in Tyler's career. Opting for a cleaner production aesthetic and downplaying his more melancholic and gritty textural tendencies, a relaxed West Coast attitude informs most of the tracks. The easygoing "Eventual Surrender" rings with wistful harmonic arpeggios, veering into a pseudo-new age direction, while the lively flatpicking of "Fail Safe" folds the guitarist's more Anglo-oriented folk influences into a similarly relaxed Californian vibe. The largely solo fingerstyle gem, "Rebecca," harkens back to some of his earliest material, albeit with occasional shimmers of bubbling synth and lightly treated electric guitar. "Not in Our Stars" recalls the soft country flavor of Bill Frisell's Nashville LP while rather ironically, "Our Lady in the Desert," the track on which Frisell guests, feels like a more typical Tyler creation. In essence, Tyler builds on his already sterling reputation as a player and composer, while further establishing himself as a bandleader, on this breezy but neatly sewn collection.

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