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Peter Walker - Echo of My Soul

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Artist: Peter Walker

Album: Echo of My Soul

Label: Tompkins Square

Review date: May. 15, 2008

Forty years between albums – it’s a fair old crack, as they say. Peter Walker’s legend is built on two albums he released in the late 1960s on Vanguard (Second Poem to Karmela and Rainy Day Raga), which chimed in nicely with a particular cultural moment (I am loathe to type the word ‘hippie’ here), reflected in music that privileged the temporal extensions of e.g. raga forms and the ruminative, pastoral ends of the acoustic folk tradition. That Walker has more-or-less returned to full flight (bar his four songs on the patchy A Raga for Peter Walker tribute disc) with a set of guitar pieces that reflect his interest in flamenco makes a certain kind of sense: or, at the very least, it’s a nice proclamation of intent. After all, it would have been easy for Walker to return with more of the same, given current interest in the ‘river of steel string’…

Walker’s playing has lost little of its articulate form, nor its exploratory temperament, though the latter does feel a little restricted, at first, by the reliance on flamenco. But if you tune into the nuts and bolts of Walker’s playing, and hear how he’s processed the DNA of Spanish folk forms and re-articulated this through his fingers, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Some of the most enduring moments on Echo of My Soul come when Walker teases strings of notes from simple chord formations, using extended phrases to expand and contract the fabric of the composition. He does this near the end of “Poema de Amar (Love Poem),” and the trail effect of this passing event is like watching ivy crawling across the wall in fast-forward, a stealthy yet organic, strangely rhizomatic experience.

Elsewhere, Walker fills the guitar’s hollow body with finger picking that varies from full-force flood to backwoods stream; he also announces many of the chords here with the kind of crisp, dramatic strum/drag conception beloved of flamenco players. Sometimes I wanted Walker to move things a little further out, push the boundaries of his compositions: while flamenco is, by its nature, traditional, its dynamics - if nothing else - have been lifted and mapped onto free improvisation (Derek Bailey’s attack on the guitar sometimes feels informed by flamenco’s theatrics). This suggests a number of possibilities for the integration of flamenco into other forward-thinking areas, something Walker doesn’t quite engage with. But nor does he make any claim to need to do so. This is fine playing, and good, solid composition: approved by the Andalucian ‘old guard’, too, as Walker notes, which I suppose is a bit like papal dispensation…

By Jon Dale

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