Tabla player Marcus Wise and acoustic guitarist Dean Magraw are not the first to explore the intersection between American and Indian musical traditions in an acoustic, instrumental format -- the ‘60s recordings of people like Sandy Bull and Peter Walker were pioneering in that regard, but is seems likely that the Wise-Magraw duo draws at least some inspiration from them. That said, the tunes on How the Light Gets In -- which, incidentally, is a phrase from a ‘90s Leonard Cohen song, "Anthem" -- are much less overtly Indian-sounding than, for instance, Walker's cult-classic album Rainy Day Raga. It's really Wise's tabla work that contributes the Indian influence here; Magraw's guitar follows a path that has more in common with the acoustic world-jazz exploits of Ralph Towner, both the latter's solo recordings and his work with Oregon. While Magraw -- whose background includes a stint as the guitarist on A Prairie Home Companion -- does occasionally dip into Eastern modalities here and there, it's only because he employs such a searching, expansive style, leading him all across the musical map at various points. An extra layer of poignancy is added to this already evocative outing when you realize that it was created shortly after Magraw underwent a bone-marrow transplant in order to treat a rare, life-threatening condition, and he was in a significantly weakened state at the time of the recording. The guitarist was nevertheless determined to reach deep inside of himself and pull out the sounds that heard throughout How the Light Gets In. Of course, it didn't hurt that he had as agile and empathetic a collaborator as Wise to make the journey all the more interesting.
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AllMusic Review by James Allen