Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Peter Walker - 1966 - Rainy Day Raga

Peter Walker 
Rainy Day Raga

01. Morning Joy
02. Norwegian Mood
03. White Wind
04. Bianca
05. Spring
06. Sunshine
07. Rainy Day Raga
08. Road To Marscota
09. April In Cambridge
10. River

Drone [12-string] – Alex Lukeman
Flute – Jeremy Steig
Guitar – Peter Walker
Guitar [2nd] – Monte Dunn
Tambourine, Bells – Bruce Langhorne
Tambura [Tamboura] – Jean-Pierre Merle
Voice [Om] – Peter Winters

American folk guitarist. Born in 1938 in Boston, MA. His music often referenced flamenco and Indian classical forms. Walker was a central figure in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the sixties, where he was particularly close to Karen Dalton and Sandy Bull. His debut LP "Rainy Day Raga" was released by Vanguard Records in 1966, followed by the release of "Second Poem" in 1968. In 2007 he was coaxed out of retirement by the Tompkins Square label.

Pleasant acoustic guitar excursions that I'd be more likely to lump together with Sandy Bull than John Fahey or Robbie Basho because they're a bit noodly.  It's worth noting that, unlike most of Fahey's or Basho's work, this isn't straight solo guitar--it's solo guitar a la Astral Weeks, with acoustic bass, percussion and even a bit of jazzy flute.  Unlike Astral Weeks' meanderings, though, Rainy Day Raga's aren't anchored by discernible melodies and the overall sound becomes pretty homogeneous after just a couple of tracks.  Likewise, Walker's playing style is somewhat static and doesn't often change from strumming while laying out single-note lines, which only adds to the samey sound.  Nevertheless, it's hard to fault the album's mellow mood and there are a couple genuinely ecstatic crescendos.

46 minutes in length approximately. The sound is very good-warm and clean, with good delineation between the various instruments, and the highs and lows. The booklet contains a synopsis of Peter Walker's life in and out of music, including a short piece by Walker concerning the album. There's also a couple of period photos of Walker, and a reprint of the original album cover for the booklet.

Peter Walker's music is a cross between acoustic folk guitar, middle eastern raga music, and a bit of flamenco, all blended together to make a (even today) soothing, interesting, exciting, attention getting album. The use of bells and tambourines (Bruce Langhorne-familiar from his association with Bob Dylan), a 12 string guitar used for a droning sound (Alex Lukeman), flute (Jeremy Steig), a tamboura (Jean Pierre Merle) for more percussion, an "Om" (Peter Winters), and another 12 steel-string guitar (Monte Dunn), to beef up the sound-really gives this music an edge. All the tunes are by Walker except THE BEATLES' "Norwegian Wood".

Walker fits in with then contemporaries John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Peter Lang, Sandy Bull, etc. in his attempts to broaden the use of the acoustic guitar in instrumental music. His deft finger picking or rapidly strummed chords (sounding at times a bit like Tim Buckley and Lee Underwood) is a delight to hear. His arrangements range from soft, quiet passages ("Norwegian Wood"), to a fuller sound ("Road To Marscotta"), which give the album much needed depth and breath. Jazz player Jeremy Steig's flute work is very delicate and fits Walker's music perfectly, and when playing together ("Spring"), it's easy to get lost in there wonderful interplay. The various percussion instruments were fairly unknown at the time (mid/late 60's), and give the music at times, a decidedly exotic sound.

Anyone who likes Fahey/Kottke/Lang/Bull/et al will like this album. Even after all these years the music is still exciting, still important, still a delight to hear, and can sit next to other guitarists working in the same area. "April In Cambridge" or "River" are both beautifully played as any of the above guitarists work-listen and hear for yourself.