Les Blues Du Richmond: Demos And Outtakes 1973–1979
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.