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Daniel Bachman - Seven Pines

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Artist: Daniel Bachman

Album: Seven Pines

Label: Tompkins Square

Review date: Nov. 1, 2012

Among the happier cultural developments of the early 21st century has been the emergence of musicians like Jack Rose and Glenn Jones. Not only did they appreciate the work of American Primitive guitarists like John Fahey, Robbie Basho, et al, enough to learn how to play that way (here’s a tip of the hat to Jim O’Rourke), they made it there own creative mission to invigorate and extend the tradition. While some people say that there’s too much of this stuff around, I say that such opinions are actually a positive sign that solo acoustic guitar music has gained sufficient traction that dabblers feel the need to deal with it, much like a lot of people feel that they have to have A Love Supreme in their record collection. An even better sign, however, is that a new breed of young guitarists is picking up the baton and making the music their own.

Daniel Bachman is, like Irishman Cian Nugent and Chicagoan Ryley Walker, in his early 20s. While he’s only been releasing music under his own name and the moniker Sacred Harp for a couple years, Seven Pines does not feel like the work of a guy who is finding his way. Bachman’s technique is sound. Like Rose and Basho, his playing is propulsive, capable of generating a flow that feels inexorable, yet fraught with mysterious atmosphere. He has a great tone, lucid in the higher pitches and buzzy in the low end, and plenty of sonic presence; here is a guy who understands how to fill a room with a guitar’s sound. Just as important as his playing, the guy knows how to compose music that feels like more than an excuse to play music. While the bulk of this music could be played in a blackout, he can deal with being in the 21st century; the melody of “Sun Over Old Rag” rises up over some sort of electronic drone.

True to the American Primitive tradition, Bachman imbues events and places of personal importance with greater significance. A couple of tunes reference places in Virginia, where he lived before moving to Philadelphia last year. And a couple more point to Bachman’s fascination with the War Between the States. “Seven Pines” references a battle fought in 1862. At the time, it was the largest conflict to date, and it set the tone for much of what would follow; it was chaotic, inconclusive, and bloody. Bachman uses the Confederate name for the conflict, which is also known as the Battle of Fair Oaks. Another tune, “Copperhead,” may be named for a venomous snake, but could also refer to the Northern Democrats who vigorously opposed the war. Who, one wonders, are today’s Copperheads? And what does Bachman think of them?

The guitar does not say all, of course, but it sure is a delight to hear Bachman power it through the stirring theme. Likewise, it feels good to know that people born in the early Bush years care enough about this American art form to not just keep it alive, but make it live and grow.

By Bill Meyer

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