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Originally published on November 8, 2015

Daniel Bachman, River (Three Lobed Recordings, 2015)

Rolling Stone lists Daniel Bachman among new “need-to-know” artists.* His River is in the American Primitivist tradition, best known in the work of John Fahey, whose music has been described as “avant-garde / neo-classical compositions using traditional country blues fingerpicking techniques, which had previously been used primarily to accompany vocals.”**

Contributing mightily to that tradition, Bachman has recorded 6 albums in the last 4 years and cut River in one day, mostly first takes, no overdubs. The bulk of River consists of the 14-minute opening track, “Won’t You Cross Over To That Other Side,” a two song suite: “Sunset I” and “Sunset II,” and the closing reprise of “Won’t You Cross Over to That Other Side.”

The CD’s title refers to the Rappahannock River, and in his liner notes Bachman recalls that it once “separated two great armies.” They were the armies of Robert E. Lee and George Meade.  Meade’s army crossed over and hundreds of union soldiers passed from life to death. It is with such a crossing in mind that Bachman dedicates his work to “many friends and family … taken ill and passed away in recent years.”  Bachman’s playing on “Won’t You Cross Over to That Other Side” evokes the swift currents of a mighty river and its patches of peacefulness, a flow like the process of death, irresistible and inevitable.  

Like the trope “crossing over,” sunsets are symbols of life’s end and remind us of its beauty and brevity. Bachman’s bright playing on “Sunset I” and “Sunset II” evokes that beauty and, when the tempo quickens, its brevity. These instrumental meditations on death reveal a gifted artist.  Rolling Stone is right; we need to know Daniel Bachman.

* “Ten New Artists You Need to Know”


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