Being a hiker—you can catch me in the outrageously unearthly Colorado Plateau red rock country whenever I have the opportunity to hit the road for a couple of weeks—and very occasional climber, I'm always interested in what musicians can do to compact the spaciousness and splendor of the great outdoors into their art. Kean, a hiker/climber and a fingerstyle picker of consummate dexterity, has managed to portray several aspects of the New River region of West Virginia very well indeed, doing so solo but filling out each cut nicely.
White Water is just that: a swirlingly speedy tour of rapids and swift runs, while Drifting sketches out a section of the same waterway in contemplative airs, a pool of lucid calm quietly meandering by. Similarly, Midnight in the Gorge mellows down into a dead-of-night dark oil color snapshot of his favorite peaceful oasis…and I'll recommend he try the overlook off the Indian Gardens campground halfway into the Grand Canyon for paradise of an entirely different nature: spectacular (it's half a mile from there straight down to the River) while blissfully quiet and soporific, especially when you watch the moon rise.
Especially if you're an outdoorsman/woman, you're going to know what Kean's doing each time he grabs a section of scenery or just goes with the whole taoistic flow of things. However, the New River themes occupy only about half the disc. The rest are sometimes rustic (Ride, Gypsy Cowboy), sometimes humorous (Aliens Came and Took the Cow), and sometimes classical (5.10 Jig), but always absorbing, complex when deep in Kottke country, then panoramic and gestural when contemplative, as in Sarah and Lindsay and the Snail Stampede, from a made-up bedtime story the composer used to tell his daughters.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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