Jack Rose - Kensington Blues (2005)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Something a little more upbeat this time. Jack Rose plays psychedelic ragtime folk in a ridiculously fast and complex fingerpicking style. On a mission to revive the traditions of ragtime, Mr. Rose plays the acoustic guitar like noone else I've ever heard.

His tools are firmly those of the past. While the new century's novel folk has already seen significant definition, Rose is largely alone in talking new century ideas with the old language.
Thus, Kensington Blues is derivative and at the same time nearly brilliant. The styles Rose employs are diverse: twelve-string virtuoso shows, a slide guitar that alludes as much to the sitar as to the blues, solid traditional Takoma ragtime and folk. Out from latter comes a Fahey cover, "Sunflower River Blues", which (not surprisingly) works as the soil from which the rest of the record grows. The original was predicated on Fahey's impeccable timing; Rose's take amplifies the feeling and melody, and then runs with it. Hence the stunning "Kensington Blues", a song full of clarity and syncopation, elegant and well composed. Two others, "Rappahanock River Rag" and "Flirtin' with the Undertaker", are less weighty, more jaunty deliveries of Rose's signature modern ragtime.

But Rose is more than a traditionalist, and the other tracks on Kensington Blues veer sharply into newer territory. "Cathedral et Chartres" uses twelve strings to abstract the melodic clarity so abundant elsewhere on the record, speeding it up and then sending it into a droning, buzzing finale. This idea is fully worked out in his closer, "Calais to Dover", in which Rose transfigures the raga into a kind of Dream Music, deep listening project, vibrating his way past individual notes and sequences and arriving at something more akin to pure tone and texture. The minimalist affinity is no coincidence: Rose's folk is not the least bit free, even as he explores freak sonic terrain, and control is his technique, no matter how many notes he stacks. - Pitchfork

Label: VHF Records/Beautiful Happiness


1 Kensington Blues
2 Cross the North Fork
3 Cathedral et Chartres
4 Rappahanock River Rag (For William Moore)
5 Sunflower River Blues
6 Now That I'm a Man Full Grown II
7 Flirtin' with the Undertaker
8 Calais to Dover

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