= March 2021 =  
 Andrew DR Abbott
 Barry Walker Jr


(LP on ADRA Records/Bandcamp)

Regular readers of Terrascope Online will be familiar with Andy Abbott and the glowing recommendation that your scribe gave to his ‘Dead In Chellow Dean’ album back in 2019. Those of you lucky enough to bag a copy of the latest Terrascopaedia will also find out a little more about Andy, his inspirations and his various projects and plans. Along with other artists such as Dean McPhee, Andy is a leading light in the folk influenced experimental music scene which flourishes in and around the South Pennines and with Dean’s new release ‘Witch’s Ladder’ (see January reviews) this year is already blessed with two fine examples of the art with the imminent arrival of Andy’s ‘Erewyrehve’. It’s effectively the final part of a trilogy of releases that also includes ‘Live on Daisy Hill’ from 2018 and the aforementioned ‘Chellow Dean’. It would be remiss not to also mention last year’s lovely cassette release ‘Six Principles of Erewyrehve’ which gave us a sketchbook of home recorded experiments, explorations  and meditations that inspired and guided the new record.

‘Erewyrehve’ is in a sense a concept album, themed around the discovery of a post-capitalist utopia. The record is a dream journey through this state and as such it continues the focus established earlier in the trilogy on time depth, people and place as depicted through evocative and often seductive and immersive musical paintings. In Andy’s words it is a broadly optimistic record that takes the imagination on a journey out of the bleak conditions that engulfed Bradford, one of many towns and cities affected badly by COVID-19 and where this record was recorded in 2020.

Once again the 8 String Baritone Guitar takes centre stage and is augmented by a range of other instruments that provide colour, texture and at times an otherworldly exotica namely Melodica, Tongue Drum, Mbira and Sheng. There are 10 tracks starting with ‘First Sight’, a short and perhaps wistful melodica theme that is part low key anthem and part sea shanty in tone before ‘Theme from Erewyrehve’ takes us to sunnier climes in a jaunty acoustic piece that has colours of Mediterranean folk dance and country blues. ‘Homeward Unbound’ feels like a journey and continues the upbeat theme, moving up a gear with a sprightly momentum that showcases the 8 String Baritone beautifully in a style reminiscent of Michael Chapman at his most expressive. ‘Bell Pits on Plenty Moor’ is a short, pacey but spare percussive piece that gently touches on gamelan and elemental sounds before ‘Ava/Paige’ returns to the guitar albeit for a more spacious and delicate melodic country blues flecked portrait piece. ‘Pity Beck’ has a turbulence in its bending and warping melody lines, tempo changes and tumbling slide work that perhaps has more of a disturbed, melancholic or reflective feel than other tracks. ‘Butterley Tunnel’ is another short percussive interlude – a little bit mysterious but also playful in tone. ‘Egress’ follows and is a shorter guitar piece that eschews the rolling upbeat picking style of earlier tunes for something more reflective. The penultimate piece is also the longest piece, ‘Red Sky Over Erewyrehve’ and it is for want of a better phrase, a lovely sky painting for guitar where more percussive playing, spacious chords and melodic patterns suggest its ever changing moods and fascination. To finish our journey ‘Last Glance’ returns to the lonesome Melodica theme and brings to an end this lovely audio journey. On the download version an extra treat ‘Erewyrehve Return’ gives a well deserved encore to the 8 String Baritone.

This is another gorgeous release from Andy who has taken an imaginary place as a theme but has clearly used the inspiration on his doorstep in real life and added a little musical fairy dust to transport the listener and the landscape to another place. The everyday, everywhere becomes somewhere special and memorable in Andy’s hands.  Whilst I may have fretted over my spell checking of ‘Erewyrehve’ at regular intervals in writing this review, I have no hesitation in recommending that you pay a visit and what is more you won’t have to quarantine for 14 days on your return.

(Francis Comyn)


(LP on Holy Mountain)

Barry Walker Jr. is an American pedal steel guitarist. That, however, only tells you half the story.  Bazzer is equally at home coaxing beautiful textural flourishes out of the instrument as he is using it as a noisy weapon of mass distraction, and the results of this dichotomy are utterly captivating. His latest solo project Shoulda Zenith finds him exploring the outer fringes of not only cosmic country but psychedelia, exotica, and even dissonant experimental rawk too. The transition from ‘Totally Tan’ into the blissful wistfulness of ‘Derr of the Schwann’ [Break of the Dawn] evokes the gradual fading of a harvest moon as its luminosity is dimmed by the sun. On ‘Insect Interlude (Circa The Airbase),’ the opening pedal steel’s loops and swirls gradually disintegrate into something ever more alien sounding; that however is a mere teaser for the masterful title track, which attains near critical levels of dissonance before erupting into a blazing frenzy of shrieking  psychedelia. And then at the close we find Walker on rhythm guitar and lead vocals: ‘Like A Prisoner’ is a telling title in itself, as if to say no matter what sonic exploration he undertakes, his choice of instrument means Barry Walker Jr is forever doomed to be considered a Nashville-style balladeer. Valerie Osterberg’s sweet harmonies on the chorus serve to underpin the sad irony of the fact. Several reasons to explore this record therefore, and my money’s on you enjoying the dissonant psych most of all.

(Phil McMullen)