Guitarist Dean Magraw is what some would call a "character" in the twin cities music scene of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has crossed many genres over the years, from Irish to Americana, free jazz to gypsy swing, experimental jam to neo-classical folk. His onstage antics and demeanor are satirical, often seeming as though he knows something that the audience does not yet know...and may never find out. One thing is certain: his sound, through all these styles, remains fluid and textural, with Unseen Rain, featuring bassist Jim Anton and drummer JT Bates, perhaps best summing up Magraw's inclination and ability to navigate these many styles of music.
The title track opens the record with Magraw delivering what a Bill Frisell-inspired composition, combining Americana melody with modern jazz textures on his delay-filled electric guitar. "Keep the Faith" continues the mood, with Magraw on acoustic guitar, and Anton and Bates stepping out more. "Isabella" breaks the mood with its world beat feel, but is still a pleasant composition, though much less complex emotionally. "Bird in the House" introduces an element of funk, made industrial by the sound of Bates' drum kit.
The next three tracks seem to emulate the first three. "Plum Blossom" is another textural piece, co-written by Magraw and Anton. "These Voices" is another acoustic guitar showcase, while "Eva Arriving" reintroduces the slightly corny world beat sounds heard earlier on "Isabella." A solid rendition of Coltrane's "Mr. Syms" follows, with Magraw once again on the acoustic, which he continues to use on "Mali." Rounding out the disc is a return to the textural sounds of "Unseen Rain" and "Plum Blossom," with an eleven-minute performance of the Arlen/Mercer standard, "Out of This World."
Unseen Rain is a solid record that well represents the many facets of Dean Magraw's playing and quirky personality. More importantly, the ensemble of Magraw, Anton, and Bates manages to find a unified voice throughout the disc, creating a sixty-five minute journey that clearly shows how cross-genre modern music can be in a world where so much is at our fingertips.
Unseen Rain; Keep the Faith; Isabella; Bird in the House; Plum Blossom; These Voices; Eva Arriving; Mr. Syms; Mali; Out of This World.
Dean Magraw: guitars; Jim Anton: bass; JT Bates: drums.
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