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Tom Griesgraber and Bert Lams: Unnamed Lands

Unnamed Lands is the title of the collaborative music written and recorded by acoustic guitarist Bert Lams of the California Guitar Trio and Chapman Stick player Tom Griesgraber. After improvising, writing, and recording over a four year period, a story materialized and what used to be a collection of songs became a concept album. Without lyrics, the story is propelled by the song titles, artwork in the CD packaging, and the music itself. On the cover of the CD is an old fashioned photograph of a wagon caravan and cowboys on horses, presumably traveling through the unnamed lands of the wild west. A glance through the song titles gives you an idea of the movement and events encountered on the journey.

The duo of acoustic guitar and Chapman Stick can combine to sound like output of three or four separate instruments; don't let the fact that there are only two instruments on the whole CD fool you! This is not rock, this is not new age, this is not classical, this is not country, this is not metal; it's easier to describe what this music is not. Art music? One website describes it as "progressive Americana" and that's close enough for me. I'm reminded of the wonderful CD Impressions by Jim Matheos and some selections from Gordian Knot. There are brilliant chords, challenging time signatures and syncopation, harmonies, dissonances, and resolutions.

A stand-out moment happens toward the end of "Prairie Suite" where from out of the staccato stick and acoustic chordings a shrill sound arrives; it's something distorted and off in the distance, and everything melts away into lengthy swells. Very sweet.

"A Red Glow Against the Sky" seems a pretty title but the music is pensive and quite unsettling. Perhaps this journey is not going so smooth?

The deep bass notes on "Where The Trail Divides" seem to take on one side of a conversation held between the two instruments. There are questions being asked and both instruments provide input. After the half-way point the muted stacatto notes and distorted melodies take the conversation in another direction. This is one of the best tracks on the CD.

The harmonics on "A Letter Home" and the audible bending of the guitar neck underline the diamond-clarity of these recordings.

"Insects" is an aptly-titled sound collage that will make you check for bugs crawling on your skin. "Vaquero" has a country-western flavor. "Smoke Signals" is another sound collage foreshadowing the next track.

"War Dance" is syncopated and funky and is a true progressive rock moment, another best on the CD. "Lumbering Prowlers" picks up where "Smoke Signals" left off but there must be something coming out of the smoke.

After the gentle ballad of "Rebecca" comes "Pacific" which sounds large and intense, the way that ocean must have looked at first glance. Remember when Joe Satriani did some tapping on Flying in a Blue Dream? This track has a few chord progressions that remind of that. A cool, upbeat way to close a captivating CD.

Unnamed Lands has great substance, fresh style, beautiful packaging, amazing sound quality and could be played in the background or as focused listening; Tom and Bert have struck gold!

Track Listing
1. Unnamed Lands 3:02
2. Don't Look Back 4:51
3. Prairie Suite 7:24
4. A Red Glow Against The Sky 1:47
5. Where The Trail Divides 4:31
6. A Letter Home 4:17
7. Insects 1:34
8. Vaquero 1:45
9. Smoke Signals 1:02
10. War Dance 3:56
11. Lumbering Prowlers 2:27
12. Unearthly Screams/Scattered 4:04
13. Rebecca 3:09
14. Pacific 3:36

Added: May 31st 2014
Reviewer: Ryan Good
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 1808
Language: english

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