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Jack Rose: Luck in the Valley

Jack Rose: Luck in the Valley

Label:Thrill Jockey
Release Date:2010

By Michael Bryne | Posted 3/10/2010

Philadelphia guitarist/improviser/heir to the John Fahey throne/all-around genius Jack Rose passed away last December at the age of 38. At the time of his death, he'd already amassed 19 full-length albums on almost as many record labels--and, moreover, as flattering as it may be to be the kind of brilliant artistic force that can sit with Fahey, Jack Rose was in many senses even larger than that. Before passing, Rose had signed with what's become the hungriest of venerated indie labels, Thrill Jockey, and recorded Luck in the Valley, a record that catches an immense breadth of musical ideas, from soul-calming ragas to bluesy stomp-along folk numbers to earworm bluegrass. Luck is a complete Jack Rose package, and the record is as sad as it is sublime.

And there are songs on Valley to which, frankly, you could never stop listening. As simple and short as it is--relative to a great many long, expansive numbers on here--the almost-basic interplay of guitar and banjo on "Moon in the Gutter" feels like someone telling you a well-honed tale over glasses of whiskey; indeed, the banjo's bobbing melody is nothing less than the voice of an old, good friend. "Tree in the Valley" is unworldly modal blues; "When Tailgate Drops, the Bullshit Stops" is a joyous stomp brightened even more by a mingling harmonica and a ready-for-the-saloon piano line. Opener "Blues for Percy Danforth" unveils in nearly eight minutes an extra-dimensional raga touched up in all the right places with Jew's harp and harmonica. Luck in the Valley is, yes, a final document, but it's also a near-perfect introduction.

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