Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tangier Sessions, by Sir Richard Bishop (Album of the Week)

As the circle of my musical knowledge grows, so does the circumference of my ignorance.  Chancing upon a thumbnail description of Sir Richard Bishop’s Tangier Sessions expanded my knowledge by introducing me to an apparently famous (?) guitarist I had never heard of, formerly a member of a band I had never heard of, playing a middle-eastern style of guitar sound to which I had never listened.

Listening to this acoustic, solo, instrumental album raised a whole lot more questions than it offered answers.  Fortunately, the music was beautiful, and the absence of lyrics allowed my mind to wander on paths both productive and idle.  In the first few listens, I had no choice but to listen without prejudice – I couldn’t compare it to prior work, I couldn’t compare it to competing artists, I couldn’t assess its fidelity to tradition.  Just me, my ears, and my wandering mind.

I loved it – it presents a smoothly enjoyable range of melodies that meander easily without lapsing into predictability.  While most of it is calm enough to serenade a dentist’s waiting room, it’s no lullaby.  “Safe House” has a heart-racing urgency that suggests danger or romance.  “Mirage” has a tension that could serve as background music for a spaghetti western draw down in Dodge City.

Having done a touch of Googling, I can report that Sir Richard Bishop is not some pampered Brit aristocrat.  He’s a globe-trotting guitarist originally from the USA.  The story behind this album is that he happened upon this guitar in a shop in Geneva, decided he couldn’t afford it, but ultimately needed to have it.  He returned, bought it, took it to Tangier and recorded this album over a week in an apartment in the old section of the city.  It’s a good story, and I hope it’s true.

Now for the ignorance part.  I’ve never been to Tangier.  I’ve never played a guitar, except when my Dad taught me to pluck out “Taps” on my older sisters’ guitars.  I’m not informed enough to rank this album in terms of guitar virtuosity.  I know he packs a lot of notes into each song, and he doesn’t make his guitar strings squeak like a glued mouse the way lots of other acoustic guitarists do.  I know that he somehow gets rich-sounding deep notes and treble sounds that make my lip twitch. 

Here’s what I do know.  This is a completely enjoyable album that could serve as the background to a great conversation with someone you love.  I know that it makes me want to go to Tangier and write in a notebook with a fountain pen.  That’s pretty good work for one guy with one instrument, I think. 

Over at Deliberate Obfuscation, Robin agrees that this album transports the listener to a different place, with wondrous musical talent.

Up Next:  Then Came the Morning, by The Lone Bellow

No comments:

Post a Comment