Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma , Scissor Tail Records was founded in 2010 by Dylan Golden Aycock. His album Black Coral Sprig, under the moniker of Talk West, become one of my favorite “missed gems” from last year (thanks to Headphone Commute), so it is fitting that I am also an appreciative late-comer to this beguiling label which “enjoys facilitating rare and sincere audible moments into tangible physical formats” and is heavily tilted toward experimental folk, primitive, and acoustic music. Featured here are new releases on the imprint by Sarah Louise, Chuck Johnson, Dibson T Hoffweiler and a 2xLP vinyl reissue of a pair of albums by Scott Tuma.
Sarah Louise – Field Guide
Sarah Louise is a guitarist based in the picturesque Blue Ridge mountain country of Asheville, North Carolina, a place deeply rooted in traditions of folk music & art to which her stunning album Field Guide can only add luster. It is comprised of six compositions performed on 12-string which feature bright melodies, dazzling finger-picking, bursts of feverish strumming, and mesmerizing drone like passages. Most of the tracks balance elegant compositions with elements of improvisation, such as the lovely ‘Waterways’ or ‘The Day is Past and Gone’ and others are entirely improvised (‘Dog Improv’, ‘Late Summer Seed Collection’).
With two hands and one instrument of wood and wire creating so much expansive sound in rhythms informed by nature, tradition, and intuition, Field Guide feels simultaneously timeless & time-worn and deeply organic. To learn more about the album and the artist, I highly recommend this fascinating in-depth interview published by North Country Primitive in May 2015: An Interview With Sarah Louise.
Limited editions cassettes are unfortunately sold out, but Field Guide can still be purchased as a digital download.
Favorite tacks: ‘Field Guide’, ‘Waterways’, and ‘Home Over Yonder Variations Pt. 2’
Chuck Johnson – Blood Moon Boulder
Chuck Johnson is a composer and musician with with a focus on American Primitive guitar, experimental electronics, and “folk minimalist” composition. His Scissor Tail release, Blood Moon Boulder features stellar guitar work and incredibly rich tone that progressively achieves cinematic scope over the course of the album.
Several tracks create vivid Western landscapes in the mind with pristine picking and resonant slide on a variety of guitars, especially the sprawling ‘Covid Tactics’ and the stunning ‘Silver Teeth in the Sun’, while ‘Medicine Map’ is both lively and melodic. A more expansive and layered piece, ‘The Deer and the Snake’ is especially evocative, while a haunting pedal steel hanging over warm drones gives ‘Private Violence’ a dreamy and desolate feel like a melancholic cowboy ballad with no words.
Blood Moon Boulder is available in a vinyl edition limited to 500 copies as well as a digital.download.
Favorite tracks: ”Silver Teeth in the Sun’, The Deer and the Snake’, ‘Private Violence’.
Dibson T Hoffweiler – When I Went West
Dibson T Hoffweiler is a musician living in Oakland, California after an eight years as a fixture in New York City’s anti-folk scene and as a member or founder of a variety of diverse bands. His Scissor Tail release, the aptly titled When I Went West however maintains a strict focus on solo guitar.
There is a spirit of joyous experimentation in the music as well humor and good-natured irreverence in some of the song titles that one might associate with anti-folk, but the musicianship here is quite serious and the emotions feel down-to-earth and honest throughout. Whether it is the vibrant ‘German Wedding Journey’, the sprightly Chicken Sippin’, the melodic ‘FIre 204’ or the eloquent ‘April in the Berkeley Rose Garden’, the album maintains a fluent conversational quality that is highly listenable and a dexterity on the instrument that can only be admired.
When I Went West is available in attractive CD package limited to 300 copies as well as digital download.
Favorite tracks: ‘German Wedding Journey’, Fire 204′, ‘The Farewell Before Candlestick Park’
Scott Tuma – Hard Again / River 1234 (reissue)
A pair of albums by former Souled American guitarist and Boxhead Ensemble collaborator Scott Tuma released in 2001 and 2003 respectively are reissued here as a single 2xLP vinyl package with new artwork, thus appealing equally to those already familiar with Tuma’s pioneering sound and those of us who have gone too long unaware of the abstract and organic beauty of his work.
Hard Again was the first of the two and has a bit more of a raw and improvisational feel with fragments of melodies emerging and receding out of abstract explorations. At times the music seems carefully composed, at others almost incidental. Yet it is always graceful and beguiling with moments of resplendent beauty, particularly on the opening and title tracks. .Fans of Dirty Three will especially enjoy the track where Jim White joins the fray with his quietly frenetic brushes and drum work.
River 1 2 3 4 is a little more expansive and refined, comprised of four untitled tracks each running from 8 to 10 minutes. Ambient elements prevail here as guitar, harmonica, and organ provide texture more than melody, drifting in and around layered drones that gently flow like the record’s namesake. Spellbinding, soothing, and organic, it is a haven for the ears and the soul. Living in a river town myself, I really appreciate the aesthetic of this recording.
Hard Again /River 1 2 3 4 is available as 2xLP vinyl edition limited to 500 copies as well as digital download.
Favorite tracks: ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, ‘Hard Again’, ‘Untitled 3’, ‘Untitled 4’
Official video with excerpt from River 1 2 3 4 and footage of the Arkansas River