Ancient Songs of Burlap Heroes by Nate Wooley (Bandcamp Link).
This album is dedicated to those who recognize living as a heroic act: the occupiers of sunup barstools; the cubicle-planted; the ghosts of Greyhounds; the reasonably sketchy. A burlap hero is one who marches—consciously or not—back to the sea in hopes of making no splash, who understands and embraces the imperfection of being, and in that way, stretches the definition of sainthood to fit.Nate Wooley, 2022
Framed by 4 interludes, (all named with an open parenthesis a sequence of periods and a close parentheis), which start with what sound like field recordings of fields or beaches into which the band gradually inserts itself, Ancient Songs of Burlap Heroes roots itself in the natural world.
These interludes present a world where composition and improvisation are part of the order of things, not one where man and his ideas impose their will on nature or the world.
The 3 longer pieces on the album skirt any labels such as “Jazz”, “Free Improvisation”, or “New Music”. (Though, at any point, the music might sound like one, the other, or all at once.)
The core group of players, Halvorson, Alcorn, Sawyer, and Wooley, are all distinctive voices and Wooley gives ample space to express themselves solo and interact with each other over the course of the longer pieces.
Particularly fascinating is the interaction between the two guitarists, the pitch sliding of Alcorn’s pedal steel guital and the temporal sliding of Halvorson’s patented digital delay damaged playing.
Wooley himself has some burning passages and some poignant moments in his playing on the album, including a particularly nice break in “A Catastrophic Legend” that is practically Bebop (but not quite).
Sawyer displays astonishing flexibility, interacting and complementing whatever these iconoclastic players throw at him with poise and grace.
The album closes at the sea shore, perhaps in reference to the quote above, a group of saintly players ending their pilgrimage, and fading into silence.
Mary Halvorson; Guitar
Susan Alcorn; Pedal Steel Guitar
Ryan Sawyer; Drums
Mat Maneri; Viola, Track 2
Trevor Dunn; Electric Bass, Track 4
Nate Wooley; Trumpet and Amplifier, Compositions
Recorded by Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio, October 14-15, 2021
released July 29, 2022