Liam Grant - Amoskeag
Emerging as wood-and-steel road warrior over the last couple years, Liam Grant is a journeyman pupil of the guitar soli dharma emanating from the Takoma school and beyond. With Amoskeag, Grant carves his own path through roving distances of hard-driving, raga-infused guitar excursions, ultimately arriving somewhere that feels like home. Born of a year’s incessant touring, the six extended compositions on his second full-length release are reverent contemplations of time, memory, and place, coursing with the ancestral spirits of Grant’s native New England and the melodic traditions of country bluegrass, ragtime, and blues.
Propelled by Grant’s pummeling right hand (a timepiece in its own right), “Stratton-Eustis” opens the record with a dusky twelve-string chime reminiscent of Jack Rose’s “raag manifestos” and the rhythmic minimalism of Charlemagne Palestine. This droning core of Grant’s music flows continuously throughout the rest of the album, adding a dreamlike haze to each tune. The lonesome meditation of “East of Canaan” and the sonorous title cut brilliantly showcase Grant’s nimble and emotive solo picking, but the rest of the album is much more of a family affair.
Amoskeag is also home to a coterie of collaborators who lend further texture and dimension to Grant’s compositions. Touring comrade Ethan WL and The Suncook Symphony drift through “Kenduskeag” like clouds across a harvest moon, while the presence of cosmic appalachia vet Mike Gangloff (Pelt, Black Twig Pickers, Spiral Joy Band, etc.) runs through the album like a current, most notably on the downright ghostly “Last Night on Dead River.” Joined by Gangloff and Grayson McGuire, Grant rakes the neck of his Weissenborn slide before bowing out entirely, leaving only the solemn frequency of McGuire’s singing bowls hanging in the air. Gangloff and McGuire return on jaw-harp and banjo to finish out the record with Grant on “Androscoggin River Ragg,” a warm slide guitar jaunt that begs a smile from good ol’ Dr. Ragtime himself.
But Liam Grant never shies away from his musical forebears—the ghostly blues of Skip James, Fahey’s surreal narratives, Basho’s ethereal fantasias, and Jack Rose’s firebrand intensity— he embraces them. Amoskeag communes with echoes of a rich musical lineage while Grant keeps the guitar soli lamp trimmed and burning, glowing ever brighter as he carries it perpetually forth.