Travelogue: Six String Journeys (Autumn 2022)

The guitar is an instrument for all seasons, but there is just something especially alluring about it as the waning days of summer give way to the golden light of autumn. In that spirit, here is a round-up of six excellent albums some of which released earlier in the year and some still to come – each one prominently featuring the guitar while showcasing the compositional and instrumental talents of the artist. Featuring: Alex Velasco, Deniz Cuylan, Fred Baty, Chaz Prymek (as Lake Mary), Marisa Anderson, and Ryan Dugre.

Alex Velasco – Imbued


Alex Velasco is Czech-Philippine guitarist & multi-instrumentalist, born in Melbourne, Australia. Trained in the classical guitar, she moved to Berlin in February of 2020 with the goal of broadening her musical horizons. It was there that Alex wrote her first ever set of instrumental compositions featuring nylon-string guitar which she rehearsed and recorded in the legendary Funkhaus studio with Alexey Kochetkov and Tom Kessler rounding out her trio on 5-string violin and double-bass respectively. Imbued is a vibrant and delightful debut that revels in the organic vibe of the acoustic trio from intimate melodic vignettes to lively forays into South American rhythms, pop, and jazz.

Imbued will be released digitally on October 10, 2022

Links: Bandcamp | Alex Velasco

Deniz Cuylan – Rings of Juniper

Having performed around the world from Istanbul, Stockholm, and New York to Los Angeles where has been creating scores for film and television, musician & composer Deniz Cuylan added solo artist to his repertoire last year with the critically acclaimed No Such Thing as Free Will. A masterful blend virtuosic classical guitar with abstract expressionism and textural sound design, it no doubt left many listeners hoping for more and that they will get with Rings of Juniper and then some. Characterizing his approach as “Mediterranean Minimalism”, Cuylan infuses the new record with rich dynamist and bright sonority, placing his crystal-clear guitar prominently in the foreground while opening up space to weave in piano, clarinet, and strings (the latter performed by Greg Chudzik) that allow the clever, intricate arrangements to soar.

I like to drop the anchor at somewhere specific with each album. It helps me create a story around the compositions. This time it was Sintra, Portugal. Since I live in California, Sintra felt like the California of Europe. Especially with the endless clouds blown away by the ocean and hitting the mainland early in the morning.

Rings of Juniper will be released October 14, 2022 on vinyl LP by Hush Hush Records with artwork by Hayal Pozanti.

Links: Bandcamp (Hush Hush Records)

Fred Baty – The Upper Air

Fred Baty is a guitarist and ambient musician based in Bristol, UK. All the songs that appear on his album The Upper Air were originally written as part of a self-imposed challenge during the first Covid lockdown in 2020 in which he decided to try writing and recording a minute of music every day for 30 days. Produced in a “a swelteringly hot shed” using acoustic & electric guitars, cuatro, and lap steel and accompanied by a bit of incidental birdsong, the fruits of Baty’s labors prove sweet indeed. Mellifluous tones and skillful playing abound steeped as Baty spins a web of calm, pastoral beauty.

The Upper Air is available now from Whitelabrecs as part of their outstanding eRecords series of digital-only releases which comes with a PDF scrapbook and features artwork by Dave Watts.

Links: Bandcamp (Whitelabrecs)

Lake Mary – Slow Grass

Missouri-based guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, & composer Chaz Prymek has released nearly two dozen recordings under the name Lake Mary. His new album Slow Grass continues the project’s gravitation toward long form compositions and his “extended studies of American Primitive music”, but it is ultimately an album of tender personal expression. Prymek wrote the title track while the health of his beloved dog Favorite was declining throughout 2019 and 2020, naming the work for the moments toward the very end of Favorite’s life when she became immobile and they would simply lay together and watch the grass grow. The touching “So Long, Favorite” which comprises side B is what Prymekm calls a return to an older style of playing, hearkening back to the kind of music he was making when he first got Favorite 14 years ago. Fellow Fuubutsushi band member Patrick Shrioshi collaborates throughout, generously embellishing Prymek’s wayfaring guitar lines with vocals, percussion, sax, and clarinet. Quoting author John Berger, the liner notes remind us that tenderness can be a “defiant act of freedom” and, indeed, this music is as unfettered and joyous as it is elegiac.

Slow Grass is available now digitally and on limited edition vinyl from Whited Sepulchre featuring artwork by Amber M. Jensen.

Links: Bandcamp (Whited Sepulchre) | Lake Mary

Marisa Anderson – Still, Here

Marisa Anderson is both a highly sought-after collaborator and an accomplished solo artist thanks to her seemingly boundless mastery of the guitar from traditional folk, blues, gospel, jazz, and country to contemporary classical and experimental forms. Her new album Still, Here released just this week is a compact, yet diverse anthology of songs that show her to be not only a consummate musician but be a compelling storyteller as well. Maintaining a warm homespun feel throughout, Anderson effortless navigates from weathered soundscapes to dulcet reveries, jaunting melodies, and tastefully rendered traditional tunes.

I don’t get ideas and then turn to the guitar, rather I turn to the guitar to find out what my ideas are. I turn towards it for meaning. 

Still, Here was released on September 23, 2022 by Thrill Jockey Records on CD, digital, and vinyl LP (note that the limited Sea Glass colored LP edition was sold out at the time this was published).

Links: Bandcamp | Marisa Anderson

Ryan Dugre – Look, See

Ryan Dugre is a freelance multi-instrumentalist based in New York City whose music I was first introduced to with his excellent 2019 album The Humors. In contrast to last year’s Three Rivers which featured ensemble arrangements and guest performers, his latest album entitled Look, See represents a “direct and uncluttered exploration” of his main instrument. Comprising six pieces written and recorded at home during a week that held his birthday and death of his grandfather, the album features Dugre expressing himself primarily on solo tenor guitar in a variety of tunings with only the most sparing of instrumental accompaniment. With a gift for melody and nimble fingers he turns this succinct collection of acoustic vignettes into a tidy little gem.

Look, See is available now as a digital release via Ruination Record Co.

Links: Bandcamp | Ryan Dugre