Music

Nathan Salsburg: Affirmed

Perfection is hard to quantify but this record is one that others like it will soon be measured against.


Nathan Salsburg

Affirmed

Label: No Quarter
US Release Date: 2011-11-15
UK Release Date: 2011-11-14
Amazon
iTunes

By the time you’re done reading this most of the United States and many other parts of the world will recognize Nathan Salsburg as the brightest new hope for acoustic guitar playing. The Pennsylvania native and Louisville, Kentucky dweller sets aside his role as folklorist, producer, and associate of the mighty East Village Radio (the cat also works with the Drag City imprint Twos & Fews and the Alan Lomax Archive), sits down with his axe and gets down to playing tunes about -- What else? -- three race horses: Affirmed, Bold Ruler, and Eight Belles.

The guitarist and his compositions shine from the moment the proverbial needle drops on the lyrical jaunt "Sought & Hidden" until it winds down with the jaw-dropping goodness of "Affirmed". Comparisons to legendary guitar figure John Fahey fit and come easily but Salsburg is never less than his own man, even a dash of the Reverend Gary Davis creeps in here and a dose of Ry Cooder shows up there.

Playing is, of course, one thing and writing another and it’s evident that Salsburg has taken his time and care in that department as pieces such as "Blues For Eight Belles" and "New Bold Ruler’s Joy" are both of the highest class. Both are likely to become benchmarks for other guitar players, a sign that one has done, as they say, something right. Salsburg also knows how to eloquently unfold a story before our ears, as he does with "Back Home In Bogenbrook"', which begins as a haunting, nearly melancholy piece before becoming a happy stroll through the familiar, the track resolving in an impossibly perfect fashion.

"Blues For Eight Belles" also stands out as one of the record’s key pieces, but then so does "Fraught With Hornpipe" and what may very well be the record’s greatest triumph, "Eight Belles Dreamt The Devil Was Dead". Each of these is buoyed by Salsburg’s remarkable fluidity, his impeccable ear for melody, and his whole-hearted connection with his instrument.

The lone vocal piece here, a take on the traditional "The False True Love" (with help from vocalist Julia Purcell and accordion player Matthew Schreiber), could have easily been out of place. So often a guitar player’s singing voice fails to match the majesty of the voice he’s developed on his instrument. But Salsburg’s singing voice is remarkably close to his guitar playing, in timbre, resonance, and spirit as well as in its purity.

Most importantly, this is music that must be heard for itself to be fully appreciated because only with repeated listens and repeated chances to allow Affirmed to become absorbed in your music stream can you fully appreciate the mastery that young Salsburg possess. As praiseworthy an album as you’re likely to come across this year and a fantastic and loving first entry from a writer and performer we’ll have no choice but to watch -- and to cheer on -- from this point out. Perfection is hard to quantify but this record is one that others like it will soon be measured against.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image