The Golden Hour

by Marisa Anderson

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REVIEWS:
The Golden Hour is an utterly fabulous set of straight-to-tape improvisations for guitar and lap steel from Portland, Oregon based artist Marisa Anderson, who also plays with the Evolutionary Jass Band. While the world is not exactly under-populated with solo guitar records from the post-Delta blues, post-Takoma gene-pool, Anderson stands tall and proud. Her approach to playing her instrument hovers somewhere between extreme confidence and a kind of poetic tentativeness, coupled with an eager sense of the microtonal exploits you can uncover when a slide meets six strings. Her melodic sense is rustic, earthen, and deep, as though she has been playing these tunes for the better part of her life, but The Golden Hour really takes off when she combines this knowledge with a rambling, almost aleatory zeal for experimentation, most powerfully heard on the strung-out lights of “Electricity”, or the buzzing swarms of feedback that descend upon “Nebulae”. Anderson also has great tone-gruff, raunchy and brutal on “Drop Down” and “Nebulae”, revenant with vibrato on the pellucid “Last Light”. It’s hard to explain exactly how The Golden Hour works its magic, though I suspect it ahs to do with the deceptively off-the-cuff nature of the performances. Ultimately, these are improvisations borne from many years of hardcore woodshedding. It’s a spellbinding record and the first great solo guitar LP of 2011-Jon Dale, Signal to Noise #61 Spring 2011

Anderson plays guitar and lap steel, and offers up a dozen gorgeous tracks of her own particular brand of Appalachia, from the noisy, reverbed, chaotic and crunchy, almost psychedelic sounding "Drop Down", to the more traditionally folky "The Night Before Last", her playing is fluid and emotional, dexterous and original, channeling the spirits of the past (Fahey, Kottke, etc.) but infusing them with the spirit of today, and her own soul and feeling, and the results are indeed really quite nice. So lovely, sun dappled back porch guitar music, with the occasional foray into something a bit darker and stormier, WAY recommended. And you can now add Anderson to the elite roll call of Post-Fahey guitar gods (and now GODDESSES!) along side James Blackshaw, Jack Rose, Richard Bishop, Ilyas Ahmed, Matt Baldwin, and the rest-Aquarius Records January 2011

Many have identified a Fahey-esque quality in Marisa Anderson's playing on this album of old-fashioned guitar music. I, however, would contend that her inspiration goes back further, here Anderson seemingly informed by the very same artists that influenced Fahey and his Takoma Records co-conspirators to breathe new life into the steel-stringed guitar. Songs like "The Night Before Last" and "First Light" evoke that same kind of otherworldly mix of melancholy and satisfaction that can be heard in early blues like Richard Rabbit Brown's "James Alley Blues" and Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)" -- the influence of the latter of these two classics is felt throughout The Golden Hour. The record's more rollicking and twangy pieces, like "Drop Down," "A Dream of Willie McTell" and "Electricity," bring to mind the up-tempo country blues style of more modern artists like Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside, less some of the growling distortion that marks both those gentlemen's distinctive sounds. Anderson manages to unite these two related but distinct modes on this album by working with a limited but carefully chosen palette of guitar tones that are common to both styles of play. The record has a wonderful sense of being a complete artistic object with a narrative that flows from song to song, rather than a collection of familiar tunes held loosely together by tradition. There are without a doubt similarities between this album and Jack Rose's output in the last years of his life, and fans of his final, posthumous release Luck in the Valley (Thrill Jockey, 2010) would do well to give The Golden Hour a careful listen, as well as any lover of the blues or admirer of excellent guitar playing in the American primitive and country blues traditions. -Other Music January 2011

Although I suppose the ostensibly improvised guitar solo as we now know it is based on the work of blues and blues-obsessed musicians, for the most part it's hard to put authentic blues (with its formal structure and rigid repetition) and improvisation (in the jazz/noise/arty sense) in the same bag. Yet Anderson, with these solo lap steel and guitar pieces, manages to craft soundscapes that are recognizable (in spirit and sound, if not structure) as wonderful Delta/pre-Chicago blues, that still live up to the standard of freejazz/art rock/psychedelia exploration (without any of the aggression or volume found in those genres). These blissful, beautiful audio atmospheres are in fact, to quote our former Governor (words likely also spoken by our new foulmouthed Mayor) fucking golden! -Rocktober Magazine February 2011


The thought of an album consisting of a dozen guitar and lap steel improvisations would not normally set the heart afire but this one most certainly does. Marisa Anderson is obviously an ace guitarist, but rather than demonstrating hollow technical wizardry, she crafts pieces that recall everything from backwoods blues to gospel, country to rock’n’roll and make you actually want to sit down, concentrate and take them in. Opener “Drop Down” is the heaviest thing here, a chunky piece of wonderfully dirty slide that recalls Will Kimbrough, but on the rest of the album things are more subtle; delicate, thoughtful, laidback, less-is-more musings.
As a whole the album feels like an alternative soundtrack to Wim Wenders “Paris, Texas”, but individual pieces work perfectly on their own, with the subtle, jazz-cum-folk “The Night Before Last” and “First Light”, the soundtrack to an African sunrise, being the standouts. The recording is intimate, almost lo-fi, so you can hear Anderson’s fingers on the frets occasionally, which adds to the overall atmosphere of a performance in your living room. An impressive work from a proper guitar player.-AmericanaUK March 2011

The Golden Hour, the second solo record from guitarist Marisa Anderson, is a collection of 12 solo improvised compositions that sound like transmissions from the dusty roads of America's past. Some songs rattle and groan with amplifier rust, while others dance nimbly from Anderson's fingerwork, embracing the physicality of country and blues music while inhabiting a more mystical headspace. It's music for the mind and the body, and Anderson's sure, steady hand (which has also done time with the Dolly Ranchers and the Evolutionary Jass Band) goes fearlessly into unknown territory, places that are rich with dirt and ghosts and loss—and also joy. Tonight's show celebrates the release of the record, pressed onto vinyl by Mississippi Records. -Portland Mercury/Ned Lannamann February 2011

Portland's Marisa Anderson finally releases her debut album of instrumental tunes (no overdubs! no vocals!) which is garnering comparisons to some heavy-hitters in the guitar world (i.e. John Fahey, the late Jack Rose, and Sandy Bull). These electric blues wailings reflect an aesthetic not unlike the blues or Takoma revivalist music found on the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers-era track "You Gotta Move" or Sandy Bull's "Gospel Tune." "Golden Hour" sits somewhere between Neil Young's tremendous, instrumental musings on the Dead Man soundtrack, a mixture of sparse Indian raga music and folk guitar, and the sound of a dusty crossroads somewhere in the Mississippi Delta. Simply good music.-Reckless Records January 2011

Anderson has crafted a fine album full of introspection and beauty. This album has the general feel of those desultory moments following a movie gunfight. The right thing might have been done, but it was bad goodness. Anderson finds humanity in some gloriously dark places. -Aiding and Abetting February 2011

Man this is good. Dirty, earthy, Kimbrough-esque guitar improvisation-Vast and Grand, Monumental.com February 2011


Portland guitar wizard Marisa Anderson's long awaited solo guitar record. Marisa has been a fixture on many a music scene for years & years playing with everyone from the Evolutionary Jass Band to Tara Jane O'Neil to The Dolly Ranchers. In any context, she can't escape her rag/blues/folk roots no matter how hard she tries. On this LP featuring only guitar - no vocals & no overdubs - we are treated to a very intimate sounding home recording filled with delicate grace. Comparisons to John Fahey & his ilk who do their hoodoo mystical rewrite of folk music is bound to occur, but close listening reveals a very original & yet truly rooted in the old style record that we hope will stand the test of time nicely- clear spot international January 2011

credits

released 10 January 2011

Marisa Anderson-guitar and lap steel
recorded by Michael Henrickson
mixed by Jesse Johnson
mastered by Timothy Stollenwerk
released on vinyl by Mississippi Records

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Marisa Anderson Portland, Oregon

Marisa Anderson is a composer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist living in Portland Oregon. Anderson’s current and past projects include the Evolutionary Jass Band, the Dolly Ranchers, and the One Railroad Circus. She releases records on the Mississippi Records label. ... more

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