steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Paul Metzger

"Three Compositions on Modified Banjo" CD

Chairkickers' Union Music

Genres: experimental folk, acoustic, American Primitive

April 2006

I like it when the title of the album describes the music on it. Makes things easier for me. What we get here is pretty straightforward if you've been following the American Primitive scene these days. In the long-running Fahey tradition, Metzger offers up his improvised banjo finger-picking for the benefit of us all. I'm going to admit I'm not experienced enough with this genre to be able to pick out each composition and notice much difference between them; in fact, for me these three improvisations all seem to work together, making up one large piece as opposed to three shorter ones. At just under an hour, that makes for a lot of improv banjo plucking, but the tranquil, pensive strokes of Metzger's fingers make for a suitably peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable experience. This is too sparse and freeform to appeal to a lot of people (far less structured than the work of someone like Harris Newman or Charlie Schmidt), but that allows the truly dedicated listener to hear everything that's going on.

Metzger's banjo being modified (12+ strings, not to mention a sitar bridge), there are some unexpected sounds in these compositions. Aspects of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean music run rampant through this work, but it keeps in line with the folk tradition that defines this body of work. Though at times long-winded in its approach (what else to expect from an hour of one instrument?), this disc avoids tedium through Metzger's sheer talent and grace. This is the work of a very talented guitarist, and that fact is never questioned through Three Improvisations. Whether it be his technical skill on the album's various impossibly complex climaxes, or the restraint shown in the quieter moments, we're always aware of the impressive talent of the man behind the music. And while for some this would spell disaster (or at least self-absorption), Metzger pulls this record off with not a trace of pretension. I hope I'm making myself abundantly clear when I say this - this is a very recommended experimental acoustic artifact.

MP3s (from excerpt from track 3


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 3 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2005]