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PAUL TASKER - Tierra Quemada 

PAUL TASKER - Tierra Quemada 
Yellowroom Records YLLWRM015  

This is the second album I have reviewed of Paul Tasker's guitar-led instrumental music, and I wasn't sure what direction he would have taken. Despite the title, I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition - but there is a dollop of Iberian influence here, and a few burning questions. Tierra Quemada means “scorched earth”, a reference to family in Valencia and also to a planet in trouble. Tasker mixes sounds from a few different locations, with no particular message in the melodies or titles, but certainly showing appreciation for traditions worldwide. The opening banjo riff evokes Appalachian music and its African ancestors, settling into Americana with a country music feel to the end of the track. Firefly has a more old world character, echoes of John Renbourn in Renaissance mode, while Roadtrippin' is back in the boondocks, banjo and guitar channelling Burt Reynolds to deliver a driving cinematic number. One thing which struck me about this music was the timing - each elaborately-arranged track is just the right length, and the reason I say this is that whenever I felt I had the measure of a piece and reached for the skip button, I noticed it only had a few seconds to run, so I left it to finish in its own time.

The title track hints at Spanish sun and sangria, gentle guitar jazz in a modern relaxed style with understated backing, broken by an enigmatic pause. Murmuration flies us back out west, horseback riding under a wide sky, sitting round the campfire picking DMT on a beat-up Martin guitar. Riding Out and After The Rain enrich the sound with slide guitar, drums, bass, mandolin and a touch of Mexican fiddle and trumpet over Tasker's Flamenco strumming. The Latin vibe persists into the aptly named Last Waltz, banjo frails and fingerpicking blending with a sultry beat and soulful melody from south of the Rio Grande. All the music here is Tasker's own, and he is elegantly supported by Laura Beth Salter and Rachel Hair from the Glasgow folk scene as well as a few names less familiar to me. The heart of Tierra Quemada sits well west of Paul Tasker's native Scotland, without straining credibility one bit - a very convincing album of guitar and banjo music for the wider world.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 143 of The Living Tradition magazine