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Fingering the Devil

FTD+LP+333.jpg
 
 

FINGERING THE DEVIL

(LP/CD Southern Records, UK, 2006)

 

Abydos  2:43

Dream of the Lotus Eaters  7:12

The Romany Trail  5:00

Anatolia  4:18

Fingering the Devil  5:49 

Spanish Bastard  2:53

Gypsum  1:25

Black Eyed Blue  8:21

Howrah Station  14:06 

 

Fingering the Devil is a gem -- while not the first solo outing by Sun City Girl, Sir Richard Bishop, it might be the first to really capture what this protean guitar inventor really sounds like live. In the wake of the Fahey revival, the solo acoustic guitar album has once again become a familiar form to many, but I still think its safe to say that here, Sir Rick is in a class all his own. The songs on this record -- which you may recognize if you've seen him play recently -- exude a strange combination of contemplation and ecstasy, for even as deft classical runs careen into outbursts machine gun raga drone, Bishop somehow manages to make that ecstatic sense of catharsis feel at once liberating and firmly grounded. The influence of Indian raga is evident and should come as no surprise given the Sun City Girl's long standing relationship to the subcontinent. What is perhaps less well noted is the heavy respects Bishop pays to Gypsy-jazzman Django Reinhardt, with whom Bishop shares a sense of charmed ease and mystery. The tracks are perfectly arranged and flow together in a way that makes this record a joy to listen to side to side. 

- Che Chen (Other Music)

 

Richard Bishop, one third of the carnival folklorists the Sun City Girls, must have a hell of a lot of frequent flyer miles. On previous releases his guitar sound has resided in pastoral English gardens, the thick-aired swamps of Louisiana, and secluded Indian mandirs. On his new album "Fingering the Devil" for Southern records imprint Latitudes, Bishop focuses his frantic melodies on the Carpathian Mountains and Andalusia. In the album's linear notes Bishop provides an account of exhausting trip to Southern's London studio in the midst of 2005's terrorist frenzy. This provides a natural introduction to the music itself. Bishop's gypsy guitar echoes with a restless energy and an understated sadness. It paints pictures of snuffed fires, rain-soaked canopies, and the steady rhythm of wagon wheels. These songs follow the trend of many contemporary gypsy jazz players by incorporating Latin and Spanish rhythms. On the several songs such as 'Spanish Bastard,' and 'Gypsum,' the ghost of Ramón Montoya floats forward in the mix. Bishop's seamless blend of gypsy jazz and flamenco guitar embraces the duality of nomadic life, its exuberance and world-weariness. Overall Bishop's pace is slightly slower here than on his previous full length "Improvika" except on the album's galloping closer 'Howrah Station.' In 'Dance of the Lotus Eaters,' he scatters his notes sparingly in sections and coaxes the steady growth of melodies from single chords, rather than frantic runs across the fret board. Bishop also embraces these gently melodies more fully, shying away from the experimental atonality of "Improvika"'s 'Cryptonymous.' This release is a return to the mode set by Bishop's first solo adventure 1998's "Salvador Kali," full of patience and powerful lyricism.

 - Jamie Townsend (Foxy Digitalis)