The Ferryman’s Fee
An accomplished guitarist and a prolific recording artist this is Vancouver’s Alex Archibald’s second album of 2016. Following his spring release of the five song EP Pink Slippers for East Van Records, and before year end, Archibald delivers another eleven well crafted instrumentals forged in the “American Primitive” guitar style.
The music is rooted in the traditional blues finger picking style of the early twentieth century and then infused with abstract and fractured avant-jazz sensibility. It’s a delicious blend that Archibald delivers with great skill and ease. Like roasted root vegetables dusted with smoked paprika and cayenne there’s an underlying earthiness here enlivened by gently sizzling bursts of melody and dissonance. The inventive complexity of Archibald’s playing targets the pleasure centres of the brain with its constant attempts to surprise.
Other than a touch of bass and piano and a tiny fragment of vocals on the very last song, Trying Too Hard, the compositions are primarily interpreted through steel string guitar and open-backed five string banjo. The music on The Ferryman’s Fee meanders like a gentle mountain stream taking on the complexity of the terrain over which it travels. Delicate and alluring while at the same time jagged and crystalline, Archibald serves up a beautiful mess of country blues steeped in mushroom tea.
reviewed by Dave O Rama