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The Juniper Meadows - A Forest Of Lights

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Artist: The Juniper Meadows

Album: A Forest Of Lights

Label: musicyourmindwillloveyou

Review date: Jul. 18, 2005

Brad Rose is a busy guy. His burgeoning independent empire, Digitalis Industries, encompasses two labels (Digitalis and the more experimentally minded Foxglove), an online music magazine (the acclaimed Foxy Digitalis) and, with his wife Eden at the helm, the Digitalis Publishing House, a home for emerging literary talents. On top of all this he finds time to make his own music. His groups bear names such as The Cone Bearers, Alligator Crystal Moths, The Golden Oaks, Sun Milk and his solo project The North Sea, which sports a strong affinity with nature, its artefacts and representatives – a product of Rose’s hippy upbringing. This passion extends to the artwork, song titles and rustic slant of his recordings. Jewelled Antlers’ benign influence is keenly felt, but as guiding hand, not point of worship.

Of these bands, The Juniper Meadows, his duo with university friend Chris Skillern, is the most successful vehicle for his paganistic paeans. Their work epitomizes Rose’s approach. Within A Forest of Light’s stunning sleeve a myriad of instruments are plucked and bowed with hushed reverence for the objects of praise, be it element or beast. Skillern’s banjo takes the lead, while Rose accompanies on an impressive arsenal of bouzouki, ukulele, oud, acoustic guitar, together with tape hiss and the occasional reed organ and zither. Conjuring up the spirit of rural Oklahoma, where Rose played as a child, the album serves as both audio picture of remembrance and a travel aid for the tourist. The music’s totally improvised nature creates an all-embracing atmosphere, a copper-colored diesel stained taste of Americana.

This is no mere facsimile of dumb yesteryear nostalgia, though. Like the magnificent work of Scott Tuma, to whose music theirs is comparable, it’s an important continuation of a great heritage. Rose and Skillern take a traditional recipe and shake up the ingredients to make a different tasting cake. Whilst one of the album’s highlights arrives during “Alchemists in the Snow”, with the introduction of something approaching a defined melodic structure, this is largely an entrancingly textured ride upon the back of a sky dancing Scissor-tail, across the burbling brooks, thick woodland and open prairies of Oklahoma.

By Spencer Grady

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