The Irish guitarist Cian Nugent
established himself as a formidable exponent of American Primitive guitar when he was still a teenager. Five years ago he appeared on the third volume of Imaginational Anthem
, the sporadic genre overviews released by Tompkins Square, and he went on to release two terrific solo albums, including Doubles
(VHF) in 2011. He's retained his ear for detail and melodic embellishment on his recent Born With the Caul
(No Quarter), but he's radically altered the complexion of his work by strapping on an electric guitar and surrounding himself with a full band, the Cosmos. It's a fantastic album marked by agile, shape-shifting arrangements that fully exploit his nimble combo, with organ, viola and violin, and trumpet serving up gorgeous, swirling counterpoint over a fluid, easygoing rhythm section. The centerpiece of the album might be the sidelong, multipartite "The Houses of Parliament," which clocks in at 23 and a half minutes and undergoes infinite iterations and changes, but today's comparatively concise 12 O'Clock Track
, "Grass Above My Head," is no less satisfying, and aptly demonstrates Nugent's current ethos. It starts out as if it were a continuation of his solo acoustic albums, but before long plangent viola and trumpet lines engage his playing with lovely, slow-moving commentary. The track is further thickened by the entrance of some relaxed, jazzlike drumming as the piece grows only more beautiful. Suddenly, the violin replaces viola, and it shifts toward a rural-American fiddling style, and the rhythm shifts toward a shambling, country-dance approach—a kind of elegiac hoedown only someone from the UK could conjure. You can check out the lovely video for the track after jump.