Questionnaire IV

As Lonely As D. Bowman
John Atkinson
Tom Bell
Big Bend
The Black Dog
Nicholas Chase
Chronotope Project
Mario Diaz de Leon
Ricardo Donoso
Brian Ellis Group
Ellis & Grainger
Gurun Gurun
Stefano Guzzetti
Heathered Pearls
Hidden Rivers
Michael Hix
Wayne Horvitz
Indigo Kid
Jerusalem In My Heart
Chad Kettering
The Last Hurrah!!
Gary Martin
Josh Mason
Lorenzo Masotto
Andy McLeod
Thomas Ragsdale
Steve Roach
Michael Robinson
Steve Roden + Mem1
Santiago Salazar
Dirk Serries
Serries & Zuydervelt
Slow Meadow
Sarah Kirkland Snider
Cara Stacey
Phil Tomsett
Jeppe Zeeberg

Compilations / Mixes / Remixes / Reissues
Deep Love 15
Graveyard Tapes
Photek / H. Agen. / W. Doc.
Positive Flow

EPs / Cassettes / DVDs / Mini-Albums / Singles
DJ Madd
Henning & Ringler
Ki Oni
Danny Scrilla
Rick Wade
Erik Wøllo

Stefan Goldmann

Andy McLeod: Forge the Valley
Dying For Bad Music

Forge the Valley impresses in a number of different ways, though it might be Andy McLeod's versatility that stands out most of all. On this eclectic collection of folk drones and raw American Primitivism, McLeod, who apparently toils as a seasonal farm hand when he's not making music or creating artwork, draws inspiration from the hills and valleys of Chester County and the playing of Jack Rose, John Fahey, and Robbie Basho, among others. The album emphasizes in some pieces a blues-country style rooted in long-standing traditions but also makes room for a slightly more experimental approach associated with drones and folk psychedelia.

In opening the set with “The Hop,” McLeod convincingly establishes his status as a card-carrying member of the fingerpicking fraternity. For this promising scene-setter, the guitarist rolls out one intricate acoustic pattern after another, building them effortlessly into three minutes of breezy uplift. In the nine settings that follow, Forge the Valley guides the listener on a scenic tour of ever-changing landscapes. With McLeod on banjo and washboard and Lindsay Stiem on vocals and Christina Klaproth on autoharp, the dancehall swing of “Wildwood Flower” (originally written and recorded by The Carter Family) presents the recording's pure country side. Elsewhere, Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen waxes philosophical in her spoken contribution to “Luminous,” an experimental setting that sees McLeod dishing out aquatic textures amidst bird chirps and nature reverberations, while the two sides come together during “Down Darby Creek” in the Eastern folk-drone voicings of McLeod's banjo playing.

Forge the Valley ascends to a majestic height during “Morning Raga,” as stirring a folk drone-meditation as one would expect from a piece so titled, and plunges deeply into visionary territory on “Song for Basho.” Those whose taste runs to the more experimental end of the spectrum will likely select those two as favourites, whereas listeners with a preference for traditional fare will be drawn to songs such as “Wildwood Flower” and “Delaware County.” Regardless of one's preferences, the thirty-seven-minute set (issued in a limited-edition run of sixty-one CD-Rs) flatters the guitarist in documenting the ease with which he tackles a number of different yet still complementary styles.

September 2015