MERLE TAKES A HOLIDAY
World-infused jazz or jazz-infused world music … take your pick! Semantics aside, The Field’s third release offers as classy a selection of roots flavoured instrumental creations (and one song) as the group’s previous albums, again delivered refreshingly free of ostentation with genre boundaries blurred. You’d expect nothing less from Canada-born slide maestro Bruce Reid and his band-mates from the catholics (double bass go-to man Lloyd Swanton and drummer Hamish Stuart).
Reid colours his self-compositions with a well-balanced combination of national steel, dobro and electric guitar, working in tandem with John Stuart’s electric guitar. The guitarists’ dialogue reaches a peak in ‘Light On Your Feet’, a quirky tune that harks back to old-time folk dancing. They duet again on the Scottish-slanted air ‘In The Evening’ before drums and bass return for the Irish-flavoured second half of the medley ‘Celticism’, the latter evoking memories of Reid’s brief partnership with Fairport Convention’s legendary fiddle player Dave Swarbrick in the late 90s’ trio Eureka.
The Field’s engine-room lays down an understated bossa nova cum Caribbean counter rhythm on the jaunty swing thing ‘Merle Takes A Holiday’ with Reid’s country-informed lead electric guitar work alluding to Merle Travis (or perhaps Merle Watson — maybe both). Later, ‘The Neighbourhood’ also exhibits a subtle Brazilian influence. The opening ‘Anoure and Akbar’, on the other hand, is imbued with a gentle Middle Eastern inflection. Likewise, ‘Country and Eastern’. ‘Floyd Cramer’ has more of a Nashville feel, as befits a tune named after one of the architects of the Music City sound. Tina Harrod adds sultry vocals to ‘Golden Slumber’, the closing jazz ballad that she co-authored.
Review of BMCC concert
It was at once a felicitous pairing and a curious juxtaposition. the Field's atmospheric country music (tinted with jazz, blues and other ingredients) lilted and swayed easily amid the art exhibition surrounding them: Picturing The Great Divide- Visions From Australia's Blue Mountains.
The music's slow tempos, open expanses and sense of innocence seemed at one with the 100 depictions of the picturesque landscapes.
The curiosity was hearing such intimate, finely detailed sounds within this new citadel of art: The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre"s gallery, with acoustics that lie somewhere between a cathedral and public baths. This is not a criticism. Such acoustics simpledemand appropriate ensembles and intelligent musicianship.
Sitting lcose to the band, I heard the guitars of Bruce Reid and John Stuart, Lloyd Swanton's bass and Pete Drummond's drums at first hand, so to speak. An occasional note from guitar of drums would flare up and slap back off the walls, seemingly magnified a hundredfold. But the players stayed in control. the whole aesthetic of the Field is about glistening highlights leaping out of the music's delicate texture, anyway.
Reid, the leader and main composer, mostly played lap-steel guitar beside Stuart's electric, and they were like two different tones of the same colour, generating gently singing solos Despite these decorative little features( indluding a bewitching Arco one from Swanton on Eastbound Train ), the concept remains more about four people weaving the same muted carpet with minimal fussiness.
The other commonality was that, often the music was slighty sad, like the sadness of a memory rather than something eating into one's here-and-now. Such sounds amplified the splendour of the light in Eugene von Guerard's Govett's Leap And Grose River Valley behing them. Suddenly the fact Drummond, deputising for Hamish Stuart made for an all Blue Mountains version of the band was truly apt.