Dean McPhee - "Star Burial" (Son of the Black Peace)
One man, one guitar, and no rushing — that’s what it took to make Son of the Black Peace. It’s the first full-length release by Dean McPhee, an Englishman whose inspirations have little to do with either the Britfolk revival or American Primitive models currently in vogue. If you have to sketch a lineage, I hear a bit of Mark Nelson (Pan•American, Labradford) and Alan Sparhawk (Low), maybe a bit of Les Paul, and definitely some Vini Reilly (Durutti Column). There’s also a superficial similarity to Marc Ribot’s Silent Movies, founded mostly upon similar taste in tones and reverb settings.
But where Ribot seems intent upon evoking a cinematic past, the only scenes that McPhee plays out are in his head. He sounds like a guy who has spent enough time with his instrument to have not only mastered it, but to get beyond any notions of showing off what he knows.
McPhee makes no effort to impress; he’s too concerned with putting every note, every liquid squeak, and every subtle swell of volume or reverb right where it needs to be to make his melodies register as more than mere tunes. Song titles like “Golden Bridge” and “Star Burial” (one of a series, apparently — McPhee’s shorter-form efforts also include burials) leave a lot to the imagination, but the deliberation with which he articulates his material seems very purposeful and specific. Each change of pace or attack comes just when it needs to come to sustain the narrative flow.
McPhee reportedly recorded the album in an afternoon, but I bet he spent quite some time working this stuff out, and that clarity of intent makes this an album to turn to when you’re inclined to put yourself in the hands of a man who knows where he wants to go.