This duo continues its down-home and good timey vibeall subsidized by monster chops and acute vision. Acoustic slide guitarist Scot Ray and chromatic harmonica player Bill Barrett are recognized for their multifarious modern jazz undertakings on the Southern California scene. (Initially, Ray honed his reputation as a crack trombonist.) This third release by Gutpuppet expands the twosome's previous efforts, abetted by the adage that variety can be the spice of life. Roots-drenched, emotive and occasionally rabble-rousing, the musicians morph their jazz-based improvisational acumen into thoroughly intriguing stabs at Americana and more.
On "Hope and Despair, the artists intertwine somber themes, paralleling the song's title; Ray's weeping slide guitar lines create a sense of melodrama. But the duo injects front-porch bluegrass, jigs and recurring themes into these original compositions. They manufacture suspense, performing the melodies in unison and branching out into some heated jab-and-spar motifs. If you listen very carefully, you'll notice subliminal inferences from various genres. For example, Ray will intermittently render sweeping chord voicings via his 22-string guitar, often used for accentuation and East Indian hues.
The bluesy progressions on 3 couple with toe-tapping boogie grooves to generate gobs of excitement. The musicians' close working relationship and intuitive understanding of each other's thought processes connect mightily here. Sparks fly throughout! Zealously recommended.