When: Sun., Dec. 4, 8 p.m. 2016
At this point I shouldn’t be surprised by any new turns in the music of guitarist Shane Parish. Though he’s pushed past the mathy strain of prog-punk unleashed in his long-running band Ahleuchatistas, I’m still catching my breath thanks to the unvarnished beauty of his recent solo acoustic recording Undertaker Please Drive Slow (Tzadik). He explains in a brief liner note that while learning folk songs to play for his new daughter earlier this year, he spent a cold February evening in a serendipitous “meditative trance,” which led him to experiment with music drawn from a swath of American folklore—blues, spirituals, and old-time songs—and try to capture them in a kind of subconscious state. And whether turning to slide ornamentation or rolling fingerstyle patterns, he conveys the material’s rustic essence while freely abstracting it—his version of the Blind Willie Johnson classic “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” only hints at the form and full melody of the original, but there’s no question about its source. Elsewhere he brings an unexpected buoyancy to the black gospel “Can’t Nobody Hide From God,” while his take on “O Death” is every bit as lacerating and direct as you’d expect. It’s not easy to find such vitality, originality, and fire in songs this old and familiar, but Parish both underlines the lasting power of these songs and makes them sound as if they’re new bolts of wisdom from the great beyond. His music has never hit me so hard.