DUCK BAKER

Les Blues Du Rich­mond: Demos And Out­takes 1973–1979

UNCUT - - Archive - Part pre­quel, part se­quel: ver­sa­tile fin­ger­picker’s early days re­de­fined Luke Torn

TOMP­KINS SQUARE 8/10

Like many ded­i­cated folk mu­si­cians ris­ing against the grain in the ’70s, Duck Baker never quite emerged as a house­hold name. But for those aware of his 45-year record­ing ca­reer, his daz­zling gui­tar pro­fi­ciency and smooth amal­ga­ma­tion of count­less gen­res – from blues to blue­grass, folk to free jazz – stand as bench­marks. Baker’s com­plex, tech­ni­cally daunt­ing ap­proach, blend­ing melody and coun­ter­melody with myr­iad mood shifts, en­tices. The set’s first half-dozen tracks un­earth early demos, when Baker was shoot­ing for a record con­tract. “Maple Leaf Rag”, per Scott Jo­plin, might be ba­sic rag­time, but is still played with pre­ci­sion and verve; the spi­dery “Ho­mage To Lead­belly” toys with strait-laced South­ern blues, then fully shines on its sub­ject’s legacy with a se­ries of wiry, ex­ploratory mis­sives. “Al­lah, Per­haps”, mean­while, sur­veys the ex­per­i­men­tal edges of fin­ger­pick­ing, es­tab­lish­ing riffs within riffs, in­sert­ing in­tri­cate time changes, Baker’s ear­li­est merg­ing of a folky ap­proach to the po­etic jazz of his life­long in­spi­ra­tion, Th­elo­nious Monk. Later ef­forts, in­clud­ing the ti­tle track, in­ject­ing Ir­ish im­mi­grant his­tory into tra­di­tional Ca­jun mu­sic, and “Pretty Girl Milk­ing A Cow”, Baker’s pen­sive artistry at its most re­gal, are sub­lime. Ex­tras: None.

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