It’s been a while in the making but here’s the debut solo album from Doghouse Roses‘ Paul Tasker and it’s been well worth the wait. Tasker, most folks reading this will know, is a guitarist of some renown. Originally an acolyte of the work of Bert Jansch his guitar playing is a joy to hear (and see) while he’s also a dab hand on banjo and mandolin. Doghouse Roses, the band he shares with Iona MacDonald are currently emerging from a near five year hiatus, a new album recorded for release later this year and tour dates coming up in April but prior to these the fruits of his labour over the past two years are now unveiled.
Blabber’n’Smoke recently spoke to Tasker about the album with him revealing that this release is his third attempt at the album. Recordings in 2010 and again in 2012 fell short of what he was looking for and it wasn’t until last year that he hunkered down in an analogue studio in Glasgow and the pieces all fitted. With Tasker on guitar and banjo the album also features guitar from Dejan Lapanja along with pedal steel & Weissborn guitar from Thomas Marsden. Luigi Pasquini handles percussion while Jo Shaw and Corran McArthur play flute and cello respectively. The collective appearing in various combinations throughout the album.
All instrumental, the album works on several levels. At its simplest it’s a wonderful and contemplative set of music, perfect to listen to while relaxing, a guitar and banjo led example of Brian Eno’s theory of ambient music and indeed there’s a whiff of Eno’s cosmic astronaut cowboys (as on Deep Blue Day) on the opening number here, Husker’s Theme, with pedal steel suitably evocative. Flute adds a “Northern Skies” touch a la Nick Drake to the wistful Sky Train while Blooms In The Autumn could well have been plucked from a John Renbourne medieval rhapsody. The album may be called Cold Weather Music but it begs to be listened to in front of a roaring fire with a suitable libation to hand, the coals crackling echoing the occasional snap and slither you can hear of Tasker’s fretboard work.
A deeper listening reveals the musicianship on display here. Tasker’s guitar playing is at times breathtaking. The whorls and winds of Gorlitzer are hypnotic, his fingers dancing on the strings, while Ne’er Day alternates flurries of melody and sharp chording. He uses banjo to add a layer of patina on some songs evoking bygone times. Valve Oil huffs and puffs laying down a backdrop for some nimble slide guitar work and InE sounds as if it was originally recorded on an American civil war battlefield, a threnody for the fallen. Of course here one thinks of pictures and in particular moving ones and one is inevitably reminded of soundtrack albums, in particular the work of Ry Cooder and also Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The McGuffin here is that Tasker has written several of the songs with a soundtrack in mind, his comrade, James Morrison, had asked him if he had any music suitable for a screenplay he is developing, a western with some Celtic leanings. Much of the record then was inspired by a road trip they took to the Highlands and the accompanying booklet is composed of photographs taken by Morrison around Scotland, each tied to one of the tunes. The movie is yet to be made but in the meantime the album is here and it’s one to savour, to wallow in and allow it to conjure up your own visions in your head. It’s simply beautiful.