Andrew Weathers: Mojave Between Ludlow and Needles
Full Spectrum Records

Operating within acoustic folk-drone territory, Full Spectrum label head Andrew Weathers demonstrates on the limited-edition cassette release Mojave Between Ludlow and Needles his special gift for evoking endless, desert-like expanses using a modest number of instrumental resources. In fact, a primary goal Weathers devised for the project was to conjure in sound a portrait of a specific hilly locale within the Mojave Desert, an isolated spot he's visited many times. During one overnight campout, he endured the harrowing possibility of a coyote attack; at another time, he reached the location at sunrise and subsequently brooded on the mercilessness of the desert's heat as the day wore on. The forty-four-minute recording is formally part of Full Spectrum's Editions Littlefield series, founded upon, we're told, “notions of intentional communities and progressive living.”

A typical setting sees Weathers overlaying a pedal point drone with acoustic guitar reflections, the unwavering backdrop a stark contrast to the drift-like musings of the guitar. The harmonium-styled chord humming through the background of “untitled” certainly strengthens the music's connection to Eastern dronescaping; the bright chords floating through “Palace of Air,” on the other hand, support the choice of title in the ethereal quality they add to the piece. One of the more appealing aspects of the recording is the contrast between the meditative character of the drone dimension and the appealingly melodic strain running through the guitar playing, “Saguaro Band” and “Ghosts Inside, Coming Up From the Earth” two prime examples. An additional change in presentation occurs when banjo, in place of acoustic guitar, brings a rural, back-country vibe to “Princess of the Rushing Winds.”

In keeping with the album concept, the material unfolds in languorous manner, with Weathers purposefully granting the tracks ample room to breathe. Though the pieces weren't (so far as I know) recorded at the site itself, it's easy to visualize the guitarist perched comfortably on high, gazing upon the dusty plains, and surrendering to his muse. Stripped of its context, Mojave Between Ludlow and Needles also holds up perfectly well as a set of East-meets-West acoustic guitar meditations, especially when Weathers channels his energies into humbly telling the songs' stories instead of treating them as vehicles for self-indulgent displays of virtuosity.

September 2016