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M. Mucci: Don't Be Afraid
Tall House Recording Co.

A number of recordings by Guelph, Ontario musician Michael Mucci feature the guitarist playing alone, whether it be material released on his own Tall House Recording Co. imprint or a label such as Toronto's Arachnidisc Recordings. By way of illustration, the latter recently issued Secret Midnights 2008-2014, which re-presents two previously issued recordings, The Secret is Knowing When to Close Your Eyes and Midnights, in cassette form. Don't Be Afraid parts company from such material in bringing other musicians into the fold, even if the songs initially were written as solo guitar pieces. It's a move that retrospectively can be seen to have been anticipated by Mucci's collaboration with hurdy gurdy player Ben Grossman on 2013's Dangerous Summer.

Mucci's new partners open up his soundworld in dramatic fashion, never more so than during the opening track “Basta Cornuto!,” much of it a take-no-prisoners throwdown on which drummer Robb Cappelletto makes his presence felt. He's, in fact, the first musician heard on the thirty-six-minute recording, as he counts the two in to get things underway and then powers Mucci's picking with a robust array of ride cymbal flourishes and drum thunder; their fire's augmented by electric bassist James McEleney and pedal steel player Dylan Aycock, whose contributions, Aycock's in particular, are rendered more audible when the intensity dials down during the piece's second half.

Mucci doesn't forsake his solo guitar roots on the album, as demonstrated by the presence of “Abbiamo la Forza,” a focused meditation for six-string acoustic that unfolds with patient deliberation for ten minutes whilst also taking an occasional detour into bluesy territory; it's about as good a showcase for his fingerpicking abilities as one might hope to find in his discography. The ponderous title track, which complements Mucci on twelve-string with McEleney on upright bass and Jonathan Adjemian on piano, wends a plodding path through dense, stately fields for a methodical eleven-minute hike, after which “Starkest Darkness” follows without interruption to cap the set with a final elegant display of the three players' rapport.

On a personal note, as a one-time resident of Guelph I take especial pleasure in hearing music of such quality and distinction emanating out of The Royal City, as it's known. It's also heartening to discover that kindred talents are close at hand for Mucci to draw upon, musical partners like fellow Guelph musician Ben Grossman, whose equipment, piano, and studio helped bring Don't Be Afraid into being.

October 2015