Dylan Golden Aycock: Church of Level Track
Scissor Tail Records

A solo album in the truest sense of the word, Church of Level Track finds Scissor Tail's Dylan G. Aycock playing, with one exception, every instrument on the vinyl collection. Though it's not his first solo album—he's also issued material under the Talk West guise and has released a number of stylistically diverse cassettes since 2006—it is the first one rooted primarily in six- and twelve-string acoustic guitar playing. In contrast to the somewhat experimental Talk West project, Church of Level Track, Aycock's follow-up to the 2012 EP Rise & Shine, marks out its particular stylistic terrain with a clear-eyed focus. He in this case appears to be drawing upon the so-called American Primitive tradition, and admirers of the work produced by Leo Kottke, James Blackshaw, and John Fahey should find Aycock's album a satisfying listen indeed.

As mentioned, Church of Level Track is a solo project, but it plays like a set of small band performances. Aycock variously complements the seven settings' acoustic guitar foundations with other instruments, namely pedal steel, electric guitar, drums, upright bass, violin, and synthesizers. The result for the most part succeeds, and never once does the listener hear the material as the work of a single musician assembling material layer by layer. As an example, “Lord It Over” effectively simulates a group performance in blending acoustic and electric guitars, pedal steel, and drums into an at times jubilant opener whose upbeat vibe establishes a promising tone for the album. It's not an entirely successful production, however, as the drumming ends up more cluttering the arrangement than enhancing it. Better by comparison is the second song, “Arkansas River,” in the way it presents a rather stripped-down forum for Aycock's slide, twelve-string, and pedal steel, the latter played by Jesse Aycock.

In “Drenched Remnants Emerging All Mesmerized,” the combination of a dense twelve-string base and lead violin playing proves to be, yes, mesmerizing, and Aycock's prowess as a fingerpicker is evident throughout, never more so than during the uptempo “Full of Days” and breezy “Red Bud Valley II”; in fact, the latter exudes such an outdoorsy feel you can almost feel the wind on your face. At ten-plus minutes, the closing “Scratch the Chisel” affords the multi-instrumentalist ample opportunity to pursue a slightly more explorative approach, and as a result, not only do we get dazzling displays of fingerpicking, we also enter transporting psychedelic folk zones that feel markedly wilder when heard alongside the album's more straightforward conceptions.

September 2016