If Joel Newton was stuck at home in isolation during the time of Covid, his imagination apparently never got the message. Exploration and travel still make a bright and refreshing theme on this largely solo affair. Thankfully the feel of adventure and open trails has not left him; Out Of and Into has his guitar work sounding fun and as jaunty as ever, even in a context noticeably smaller than usual.
Doing the one-man-band thing at home is certainly an unusual step for someone who thrives on collaboration, whether an extensive resume of sideman work, the rotating cast of the Joel Newton Situation or the sunny folky funk that the Trail Magic quartet showed on its Trail Magic (self produced, 2017). With the Situation here almost entirely reduced to Newton himself, he keeps the affair centred around a single acoustic guitar with an impressive range of small other textures on the side. The conversations-largely-with-oneself method makes an inviting exercise in doing a lot with a little.
The variety here comes from the compositions themselves; kicking off with some string-tapping borrowed from the late Michael Hedges and following with a range of smooth-flowing ramblings, Newton plucks and strums enough to create all kinds of eclectic bends in the road. In the early going it is largely drifting and dreamlike, though it picks up a little steam as the recording coasts along, picking up flavors of cello, ukulele and wordless voice here and there.
A couple of previous Situation tracks pop up again here because they perfectly fit; the simple guitar-bass duet of "Crying and Laughing" is beautifully spare and thoughtful, while "Homeward" closes with a dreamy yet harmonious improvisation among the group. In between, the weirdly hypnotic centerpiece "Tides of Truro" has good friend Bill Cochran weaving an exotic French horn motif and playing with loops until the whole thing dissolves. It aptly illustrates Newton's theme of going out of something not so pleasant and into something better; there is room for a remote collaboration in amongst the pieces made in solitude, while the ending sends us off with a reminder of playing together in more normal times. For art made during a pandemic, that is an encouraging idea indeed.
Snapper Whipper; Out Of and Into; Song for Sam; Jashwa; Tides of Truro; Crying and Laughing;
The Climb; Jashwatu; South Peak Bill; Rain Ditty; Homeward.
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