Some time ago I wrote a post dedicated to the world of Jim McAuley. In that post I wrote how Jim McAuley belonged to that curious category of musicians who do not just move within the known coordinates of their instrument. All true. I have been following this musician for years and every time he always manages to amaze me. At the end of 2019 he returned with a new album, always produced by the Italian Long Song Records, in the company of another outsider, the expert of lap steel guitar Scot Ray.
This record struck me immediately for the graphic element of its cover. The photo of an old piece of wood. Nothing special, a very simple thing, not at all complex. But that photo is already a world where it is easy to get lost. It is a piece of lived-in wood, with its own history that is reflected in the grain of the table, in the peeling off parts, in the semi-erased writings that inhabit it, in the knots of the wood and in the parts discolored due to bad weather. It is the photo of a moment, but how long did it take to realize this “moment”?
I think the same thing happens in the context of improvisation. Improvisation is the most personal and fragile thing that can happen in music, from the point of view of memory. It exists only in the moment in which it is realized and listened to. It is not transcribed on a score for future memory, it can only be fixed on a recording medium, if you are lucky enough to have someone available to record it. It is a magical moment, in which one or more musicians perform music that is present only in their heads and fingers and that will never be repeated. This time we were lucky: “Second Earth” was recorded in one afternoon by a couple of musicians who played together for the first time. It was not a chance meeting, but it happened thanks to Michael Davis, a radio host who put the two sides in direct contact and to whom our thanks go.
The result, in fact, goes beyond all expectations. Two different musical lines that intersect without collision, with a unique sense of poetry and a fascinating timbre delicacy. We are at a level that goes beyond pure guitar nirvana, we are in the field of “deep listening”, in the ability to channel a musical discourse made of sound intuitions. It is a kind of magic, a magic based on an intuitive knowledge gained through years of study, practice, collaborations which leads to an incredible interplay created by two unique artists, unable to copy from anyone, not even from themselves.
Second Earth is a record that loves silence, listening in silence, concentrated, without brain malfunctions or stylistic short circuits. Through layers of sound, flowing phrases, open call and response, Ray and McAuley find a thousand ways to involve us, facilitating even our most intimate ability to focus.