the guitar music of
Jack Rose

CD (2004)CD (2004)CD (2005)CD (2008), CD (2008)LP (2010), DVD (2010)
 Vhf Rec. Jack Rose : Two Originals of .... 
– Red Horse, White Mule & Opium Musick -(US,rec.2001,2003,rei.2004)*****

While Jack Rose also is part of the group Pelt, it’s with these albums that his talent as a guitarist flourishes. This is a compilation of his first two solo LP’s, together about 70 minutes of sonic bliss. I’m very happy for this renewed attention on the Takoma guitar styles, and the further development of them, by people like Steffen Basho-Junghans, or Glenn Jones. Jack Rose seems to get profit from it, for he might get to similar results instinctually plowing the fields in what the new generations are digging into deeper. 

On the first part with the first 4 tracks, “Red Horse”, “Dark was the Night”, “Cold was the Ground” (Johnson), “White Mule” & “White Mule II” for Jack Rose this is a fingerpicking exploration to the direction of the guitar-raga, spontaneously developed to that specific natural feel of it. “Hide the Whiskey (Blues for the Colonel)” is much more a kind of bluesguitar experiment. In between the recordings of both albums, the liner notes say Jack Rose learned the secrets of the ragtime. Dr. Chattanooga Red, it says, asked on his deathbed to bring its essence over to the next century. I don’t notice any direct ragtime influence, but I do hear some very interesting explorations which combine raga and blues improvisations and various kinds of fingerpicking developments (especially in "Linden Ave Stomp" (Rose, Jones) and “Mountaintop Lamento”. The first track, “Yaman Blues”, is a very beautiful raga-like guitar playing with accompanying (Indian) tampura. The last track, “Black Pearls” is another interesting composition. It starts and ends with flights of a train-like wall of guitar sound, in between more raga-like fingerpicking. Very organic. Here I must still admit to readers of my reviews, that myself I’m not so specialised, I’m not even a musician, I can only try to describe what I hear as a music listener. What I surely can emphasize is that 9 $ for such an adventurous and pleasant album of almost 70 minutes is nothing compared to the treasure you get for it !!

Other audio file on video : "Kengsinton Blues"
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PS. "Raag Manifestos" is reviewed next->

Vhf Rec. Jack Rose : Raag Manifestos (US,2004)****°

The music is played as if meant for delivering a kind of 'raga manifesto' for acoustic guitar, directing and pointing all energy in that direction. With a kind of strumming drone effect,  with fingerpicking evolution and some intertangling evolution, Jack Rose plays on a few tracks with more energy, and perhaps some aggression compared with what I heard before. This can be heard on “Black Pearls From The River”, a track amongst more relaxed moments. Also on “Hart Crane's Old Boyfriends” he’s almost "attacking" the guitar strings, creating a denser atmosphere, moving towards an almost out of control meta-acting / directing towards other dimensional realms, by creating an extra drone-like brooding energy, leaving behind some additional drones and echo, which is boozed up by Ian Nagoski’s electronica-production work (-this guy is known for his minimal texture solo releases-). 

Tower Of Babel” and “Road” on the other hand are welcome-at-the-right time, and work as contra-impulses, with pure acoustic finger-picking raga which was track recorded live. One more track, “Crossing the Great Waters" has also tabla added by Eric Carbonara. Last track, “Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord” is a fine closer, in a calm, and this time, a more bluesy American styled mode.

The CD was published in a limited edition. It was difficult to obtain this, because when I ordered it (in Europe) as soon as it came out, after many weeks of waiting, I was told it was sold out or deleted. Luckily I could still find my copy through some distributor on the net.
Highly recommended.

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Jack's 2005 album, 'Kensington Blues', is reviewed next->

Vhf Rec. Jack Rose : Kensington Blues (US,2005)****

For this release Jack Rose explores a couple of ragtime tracks, like “Rappahanock River Rag” and “Flirtin’ with the undertaker”. On “Kensington blues" his style is more a mixture between ragtime and blues, while most other tracks go into a raga-like improvisation mode. Especially “Now that I’m a man full grown II” sounds more Indian. Another great album by talented guitarist Jack Rose.

Audio : "Cross The North Fork", "Cathedral Et Chartres", "Sunflower River Blues
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Jack's next 2 albums (2008) are reviewed next->

3 Lobed Rec. Jack Rose : I Do Play Rock and Roll (US,rec.2004-2006,pub.2008)**°°
Tequilla Sunrise Rec.Jack Rose : Dr.Ragtime and his palls + Self-titled (US,2008)***
-featuring Glenn Jones, Micah Blue Smaldone, Mike Gangloff, Sean Bowles & Harmonica Dan - 

Jack Rose has published his first live only album, which contained just three tracks : one transparent raga improvisation, a comparable composition, and one very different, droning "experiment". Also published around the same time is this more ragtime inspirational album. Because of this timing of publication of these concepts, it gives the idea that Jack Rose keeps all these areas relatively separate as almost traditions of entities, and this while most guitarists tend to blend as much as possible all their different ideas into one artistic and personal vision. This gives the idea that compared to all the great new fronting guitarists, Jack Rose as a guitarist who was first known for his group project with an interest in droning sounds, but outside this experimental blurring approach, as a solo guitarist he shows himself more as a clear minded improvisational and creative style respecter. Whether he performs ragas or ragtime-blues, he plays them with ease without constructing new collages of ideas, direct, effective and with enjoyable energy.

The last few months Jack Rose hardly had time for contemplating constructions, so that’s how his performance drives to directness and the pleasure of playing. In such dedicated time what could give better results than to exploit this enjoyment to a full spin, as a sharing of this energy with some other likeminded artists ? The front cover of “Dr.Ragtime and his pals” refers to old times, a space, time and great outdoor village place shared friends, a distinction place and choice that it will be like a good old ragtime time… 

The first album of this double album is just Jack Rose solo on guitar, on ragtime bluesy slide guitar. How his picking and slide guitar technique is combined into one technique I can’t decipher well, but it surely sounds attractive. It goes from slow blues to fast ragtime and back in style. The 6th track is an Indian raga. (here I hear a strange resonating sound to the resonating chamber wood during the playing working as an extra special effect at some point). The slide techniques come like sudden additions to the pickings. 

The second album refers best to the front cover photograph gathering. Second guitar is provided by Glen Jones (1,9) and Micah Blue Smaldone (4,8), banjo by Mike Gangloff (2,5,10,12), washboard by Sean Bowles (2,5,10,12), harmonica by Harmonica Dan (11). It revives a spontaneous essence of that old time feeling, which inhabits a happy enjoyment, plus it’s spontaneous choice of playing which gives a new energy to this field.

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Next album->

Thrill Jockey Rec. Jack Rose : Luck In The Valley (US,rec.2009,pub.2010)***°
featuring Glenn Jones, Micah Blue Smaldone, Harmonica Dan & The Black Twig Pickers - 

After having played for a longer period in the drone rock band Pelt Jack Rose began to profile himself more and more as an acoustic guitarist, at first like a post-Takoma guitarist following in the footsteps of people like John Fahey and Robbie Basho. Then more and more it became clear he showed also a wish to revive more old time music, ragtime and blues, something which showed itself at most, without too much ambitious pressure, on the self-released “Dr. Ragtime and His Pals”. But for this latest album I can say he is getting completely into it, with a larger development and with like-minded palls. Yes, there exist others who are into these old time American musical forms, like the already mentioned in my web pages old timey guitarist Micah Smaldone who’s featured here as a pianist, Harmonica Dan, and Appalachian folk revivalists the Black Twig Pickers, all participating with him on this album. This means for a couple of tracks an attractive creative at times even brilliant use of honky tonk rhythms and use of instruments like the washboard, a wooden block, old bar piano and harmonica, and I think some banjo to rework some old classics like the “St. Louis Blues” (W.C.Handy), “Everybody Ought to Pray Sometime” (Dennis Crumpton and Robert Summers) and “West Coast Blues” (Blind Blake). For the first time I feel he really succeeds with the help of these people to show a way to revive these days into our perspectives, much more convincing than the more sparsely arranged Dr.Ragtime, this latest album shows a new way, a vivid life energy, amongst calmer typed improvisations.  “Lick Mountain Ramble” reminds me also of Cajun music with its improvised violin on top. “Luck in the valley” is bluesier, with two guitars, using some extra mouth effects on what might be jew’s harp but sounds more flat (but still interesting) than that.
But that’s just about one of the new parts. We also hear a few raga-alike pieces, like “Blues For Percey Danforth” with some instrument I am not sure about, replacing the droning tempura, some little bits harmonica, and with pickings and a bluesy slide guitar. “Tree in the valley” is rather Indian styled raga guitar. These pieces combine well with the ragtime and are comparable to previous recordings of Jack Rose. It is really a shame to realise how with this bright and happy open door to the old music format Jack Rose suddenly died of a heart attack, before he was even forty, and a month or so before this new album came out. This happy touch tastes bittersweet.

The LP is limited to 1000 copies.

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Strange Atractors House       Jack Rose & Glenn Jones The Things that we used to do 
-solos and duets- -DVD- (US,rec.2007-2009,pub.2010)****°

Two and a half hours of Jack Rose & Glenn Jones ! The DVD was already in its final stages of production when Jack Rose suddenly unexpectedly died of a heart attack, which is weird leaving these two finished two projects (an album and a DVD). 

With good camera work giving more a live impression than seeing someone playing live (rarely achieved !) because of the many close-ups (where you can see the sweat pearls on Jack Rose face, or the worn out guitar and how the music is played with a nice photography) with its moving focus this makes the experience of the tracks more real than I had before with a CD only, and like an intimate experience. Tiny camera work shots in between the tracks are a good idea to have them included and give the recording something real instead of just a technical studio document. 

The DVD is in six sections. 2 tracks in duet, 9 tracks of Jack Rose, 6 of Glenn Jones, and three more tracks of each during a live concert, followed by an over half hour interview by Byron Coley.

The bluesy folk slide & picking guitar tracks by Jack Rose sound somewhat similar, and because there’s not made real contact with the camera, just in time before my attention flooded, Glen  Jones took over for the next session. This Glenn Jones session is a very intense, deep and at times almost hypnotic-meditative concentration, for which you could close your eyes at times just occasionally looking at the same concentrations in detail, in fingers or posture of Glenn Jones. Then he suddenly switches to banjo.

Also for the live recording, very short faded in and out flashes of the settings were filmed (not longer than necessary), which helps to imagine being there involved with the real memorable moment, the live recording. Both sessions are also very intimate, quiet and introspective and meditative, with a unique atmosphere, with the first track fitting perfectly with Glenn Jones’s approach, followed by two blues pickings.

The spontaneously done interview has the different communicative part focused on both players relationship in music, their main interests and heroes (Robbie Basho and John Fahey for instance), and what they did solo and together, and how they got involved into acoustic guitar playing.
This DVD album I think will get some historical significance and importance later. 

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