4 out of 5
Label: VHF Records
Produced by: Chris Simpson (recorded by, track 4), Dave Pearson (recorded by, track 3), Eric Carbonara (recorded by, tracks 5, 6), Mike Chaffin (recorded by, 1, 2, 7)
While any mention of Jack Rose’s acoustic guitar plunkings and strumming can’t get away from also mentioning John Fahey and his Takoma Records’ players, I’ve always been quite blown away by Rose’s work, whereas Fahey and etcetera are pleasing to my ear, but don’t quite elicit the same effect. Which certainly isn’t to denigrate the skillful and often mesmerizing works they’d create – nor to deny their influence on Rose – but perhaps Rose’s start with the initially noisy Pelt gave his compositions a different set of “tools” with which to make his solo art, leading to tracks and albums that can be sparse but still loud; peaceful but still aggressive; full-on folk or traditional, but played with a modern twang.
Raag Manifestos fulfills all of that, touched here and there by some electronics and light percussion but certainly focused on Jack’s frantic playing style, captured raw and live and the recordings allowing the edges of the tracks to sort of bleed out, overblowing the speakers in a way that, to me, enhances the experience. Opener Black Pearls From The River and closer Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord are fascinating parallels, with the former kicking things off with volume and passion, chords played with fury, and the latter a familiar tune, patient and calm and emotive throughout. Inbetween, Manifestos leans more toward animated songs, sticking very much to the complexity as suggested by classifying these as raags. Within the layers and layers of notes, distinctive melodies emerge, making the exact feel of each track unique; it is an album of songs, and not just a collection of guitar wizardry. Only Tex, in the album’s middle, seems like it gets away from Rose, wandering without finding a center; there are also some odd noises in the background of Crossing the Great Waters and Road that sound like Jack was sniffling a runny nose – maybe just artifacts of the recording, but moderately distracting when on headphones.