“No Love Is Sorrow” by Buck Curran and “FreeFolk” by Massimo Garritano, new space for folk on #neuguitars #blog
We are at the end of the 60’s and folk music takes on a new meaning. Thanks to Bob Dylan, the Anglo-American folk tradition, with its biblical tones and apocalyptic metaphors, takes a new path. Dylan establishes a detachment from the narrative form of that tradition, freeing his songs from the constraints of a story to be told, making them enter a more properly poetic dimension. However, Dylan remained a complex example. The vast possibilities of his music, which had absorbed the timbres of R&B and pop, and his often muddled tone, once associated with the regular electric rhythms of a rock band (Highway 61 Rivisited (1965), Blonde on Blonde (1966) ) transformed the spontaneity of a folk song into a more detached, polite and metropolitan style. Meanwhile the brilliant collage of literary metaphors, alliterations and images, well illustrated in Mr. Tambourine Man had a notable effect on English and American pop and rock. A new cultural climate had thus planted its roots. Dylan and the other minstrels weren’t alone. Next to the figure of the modest and unpretentious singer-songwriter, immersed in the comforting mists of “art”, a new space was created in which the acoustic guitar (in particular the twelve strings) began to fly on the wings of musicians like John Fahey and Robbie Basho, who decided to reinterpret music and songs of the blues tradition (often looking for his latest performers and fanatically collecting old 78s records) by connecting them with Indian music and European cultured music. The common themes underlying this double postwar revival were “truth”, “sincerity” and “authenticity”: that is, the universal appeal launched against the mass industrial society of the time. Both of these two variants of folk were characterized by a kind of vagueness of feelings and nostalgia for the rural world they came from, but at the same time they were open to many interpretations: more political, more linked to universities and non-conformist circles of Greenwich Village cafes, the Dylan. More connected to an ideal of instrumental and avant-garde music, Basho and Fahey. A different aesthetic that has led to generate a very different field of influences and consequences, if Dylan’s folk has known world audiences and had profound influences in pop and rock music, Fahey and Basho remained limited to a more limited sphere of fans, reappearing on the surface just when rock, with post rock, has definitively its end as a movement linked to the youth counterculture and product of mass culture. The fact is that Basho and Fahey’s guitars have not yet finished their cultural ellipsis: after having created and defined the genre of the primitive guitar, they have continued to inspire many musicians, broadening their field of action.
“No Love Is Sorrow” by Buck Curran and “FreeFolk” by Massimo Garritano are grafted and continue on the wings of what we can now consider both a well-established traditional form and a genre capable of continuing to renew itself and generate new variants.
Let’s start with “No Love Is Sorrow”, Curran is American but for years he has moved to Bergamo, Italy, where he continues the activity of his independent label Obsolete Recordings. This latest CD was born from recordings made in Italy between December 2018 and February 2020, just before Covid-19 put our lives and our societies on standby.
An almost premonitory album, which seems to anticipate the desire for hope that this virus has loaded in all of us. “No Love Is Sorrow” teaches us that art and music are powerful engines and catalysts to help us exorcise, reflect, comfort, re-read the world around us, charging it with new meanings and new beauties, even when reality communicates us another desperate message.
Curran’s music is a powerful and intimate immersion in the sound generated by the voice and instrument of the American guitarist, a journey of instrumental melodies and meditations that express the profound spiritual dimension of his author and his connections with the raga structures drawn from Hindustani classical music. Curran’s musical structures are not complex, but are characterized by a sound and a dimension of space that never fail to fascinate me. With few elements, with apparent simplicity, Currant always manages to carve out his own intimate, intense and at the same time wide sound dimension. His sound is sweeping, airy, luminous even when his blues draws geographies of suffering and pain.
Completely opposite, but complementary, is Massimo Garritano’s “FreeFolk”. If Buck Curran is a more instinctive musician, Garritano is an instrument virtuoso capable of creating a much more complex folk, characterized by a strong immediacy and instrumental energy.
The album winds through sixteen instrumental compositions, thirteen in the vinyl version, where Garritano’s guitars tell us about a musical crossover that represents a personal synthesis of what has been cultivated during a career as a music professional. Among the goodies of the album I point out the interesting use In Bottle Cup Blues, of a fretless classical guitar, “prepared” with a plastic cap inserted between the strings and the fingerboard, which significantly changes the sound and the timbre.
It is as if the two are on two sides of the same coin. More intimate Buck Curran, more virtuous Massimo Garritano, but the starting matrix is the same as is the desire to continue on a genre that has made the ability to absorb different ideas and forms one of its trademarks. Hightly recommended.