The Paper Hats: Deseret Canyon
Apparent Extent

Add William Tyler's The Paper Hats name to the list of artists operating within the epic acoustic guitar-based genre associated with James Blackshaw, Alexander Turnquist, and others. Deseret Canyon provides a powerful, hour-long documentation of Tyler's playing and composing skills, with three of the seven pieces weighing in at twelve minutes apiece. Though young, the Nashville-based producer's been around the block a few times, having toured with Lambchop and The Silver Jews and played on albums by Bonnie Prince Billy among others. Pitched as “country soul on a psychedelic carousel,” Deseret Canyon makes a strong argument for Tyler's talents.

A combination of Eastern drone and finger-picking, “Man of Oran” wends a circuitous thirteen-minute path through back country fields where layers of acoustic and electric guitars joyously chime while a sitar-like pedal point drones in the far distance. Tyler intersperses Appalachian passages of alternately jaunty and breathless character with brief rest stops of wistful design in this bravura display of his artistry. A similar widescreen feel infuses “Parliament of Birds,” the major difference being the raging electric storm Tyler stokes during the track's closing minutes. A wide-open spirit pervades much of the material, so much so in “The Sleeping Prophet,” for example, that the distant howl of a train—real or imagined—appears to roar underneath the multi-layered guitar picking. Tyler's uplifting music is largely free of moroseness, and it also generally eschews experimentalism, the clear exception to that rule “Hermit Kingdom,” a six-minute exercise in industrial-tinged sound sculpting. The music's strong connection to country music is audible throughout, whether it's heard in the light-hearted jaunt “The Green Cigar Kept Smiling” or in the Pedal steel guitar playing that Paul Niehaus contributes to two pieces.

At day's end, the album doesn't quite reach the heights of Blackshaw's The Glass Bead Game (2009) or Turnquist's As the Twilight Crane Dreams in Color (2009) and Faint at the Loudest Hour (2007), but Deseret Canyon is nevertheless a solid statement in its own right and promises much for Tyler's future endeavours under The Paper Hats name.

August 2009