Matthew J. Rolin leads the latest surge of fingerstyle guitar with his new self-titled LP | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Matthew J. Rolin leads the latest surge of fingerstyle guitar with his new self-titled LP

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In ye olde late 90s, American Primitive fingerstyle guitar by the likes of Robbie Basho, Sandy Bull, and Peter Walker seemed to come back into fashion, possibly because the founder and overlord of the genre, John Fahey, was making some very cool new experimental records. After Fahey died in 2001, adept pickers such as Jack Rose, Kevin Barker (of Currituck Co.), and James Blackshaw appeared to pick up the torch and run with it. Sadly, by the end of the decade, the well of solo underground acoustic guitarists seemed to dry up: Rose passed away in 2009, Blackshaw retired from the biz, and Barker went off the radar to raise a family. But in 2008, the Numero Group released the excellent compilation album Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli, which features meditative recordings by obscure guitarists, including Ted Lucas and George Cromarty, and since launching in 2005 the Tompkins Square label has been serving up archival rarities by Max Ochs and Harry Tausig as well as releases from emerging artists Ryley Walker and William Tyler. It’s clearly too early to declare the fingerstyle scene moribund, with troubadours such as Steve Gunn, Daniel Bachman, Cian Nugent, and Matthew J. Rolin actively touring and putting out new music. Rolin brought his adept playing and laid-back demeanor to Chicago from Cleveland in 2017, and after he lit up the DIY landscape here, he toured with earthy local avant-rockers Health & Beauty. In January, Rolin dropped the cassette Moment (Blue Hole), which is full of sublime, ruminative solo guitar. Rolin seems to be building momentum: a composition of his just appeared on the ninth volume of Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem anthology series (this one curated by Ryley Walker), and his self-titled debut LP is due on the prolific Feeding Tube label in November. The album shows Rolin’s growing maturity, augmenting its warm acoustic guitar with delicate layers of violin, chimes, tambourines, and other heavy vibe setters. In early 2018 Rolin moved back to Ohio, where he’s launched the Powers/Rolin Duo with his partner, dulcimer player Jen Powers, and this is his first solo appearance in Chicago since then—so it’s time to soak up his heady sound tapestries, which will surely sound divine in the autumnal air.   v

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