19 September 2013
Robbie Basho - 1966 - The Grail and the Lotus
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5
A few months ago, we visited some 'contemporary' guitar (circa 1967), and I lamented the difficulty of tracking down recordings by fingerpicking wizard Robbie Basho. Well, I finally hit the payload and found 1966's "The Grail and the Lotus" to be one of his golden nuggets of sound. Sporting some fantastic mid 60's mystical pop art on the cover, the disc features only his guitar for the entire album (except for a short spot of whistling on the final track). Granted, we're talking the mainline of transportative, transcendental guitar. Later on, the man would add touches such as piano and some vocals here and there, but let's just say that his guitar playing stands out as his superlative talent.
I hope that you'll buy into Basho's sound, but you either will or you won't. Basho's not aiming for stylistic diversity, but rather the sound of the mystical minstrel passing through your muddy, Black Plague-ridden town square. It seems that he has a 12-string guitar in place of a lute, but the man has traveled. Perhaps he set off on a latter day crusade, forever changed by his experiences signified by the title track. He'll re-appropriate the sounds of the Indian courts on "The Dharma Prince" while amplifying the echoes of China he caught on the silk road with "Chung Mei."
This is music simple in execution, endlessly complex in the guitar stylings, and exploring the limits of infinity. Basho's a prime case for the misunderstood genius. His music never has and will probably never end up on a commercial radio station, and it's too intentionally ragged and weird for the BGM or new age crowd. I imagine you're here for psychedelic adventures in music, though, and this presents that aesthetic it one of its most raw and pure forms.