Julian Lage - Modern Lore

Label: Mack Avenue, 2018

Personel - Julian Lage: guitar; Scott Colley: double bass; Kenny Wollesen: drums; Tyler Chester: keyboards; Jesse Harris: maracas, casio, acoustic guitar.

Guitarist Julian Lage recorded his new album, Modern Lore, with a quality lineup of musicians that include bassist Scott Colley, drummer Kenny Wollesen, keyboardist Tyler Chester, and Jesse Harris, who besides producing, also plays maracas, casio, and acoustic guitar. Lage digs deep into the American roots, presenting us something distinct, perhaps even more personal than in his previous Arclight (Mack Avenue, 2016), an album conceived in the typical guitar-bass-drums trio format.

Fusing country, rockabilly, and jazz, “The Ramble” takes you to a spine-tingling rollercoaster, erupting in a stunning guitar solo whose point of entrance is impactful enough to make you alert. Lage’s Fender Telecaster fills the air with its robust Western sound, and Colley, in addition to the groove, drives an intelligible if short bass solo before the reinstatement of that sort of Wild West foray.

The softness of “Atlantic Limited” is generated by a blend of country-pop and early rock n’ roll, in the same line of “Wordsmith”, which touches a bit further the roots rock before being wrapped up in distortion.

Different yet complying with the mood, “General Thunder” flows with a rock-steady beat, enlightened by the harmonious lines drawn from the country and folk-rock genres. The smoothness of its texture doesn’t lose the fine balance between the American roots and the modern lore that the band claims, feeling perfect for a dusty road trip. It’s like if the adult rock of Dire Straits had melded with the progressive country of Johnny Cash. It doesn’t have that funky wit of “Roger the Dodger” though, a ternary composition that explodes with bluesy screams and poignant outcries.

With techniques, styles, and lucid tones being constantly cross-wired and recombined, we can appreciate the easy listening pop/rock of “Splendor Riot”, the bluesy rodeo style of the hard-swinging “Look Book”, the Roy Orbison-esque lament of “Whatever You Say, Henry”, and the free state of mind of “Earth Science”, where the musicians endorse exploration. Far more reflective is the closing tune, “Pantheon”, abandoning the tradition in favor of a modern harmonization and shifting tempos.

Regardless if this is your style or not, it’s undeniable the superb instrumental outfits created by an ambitious rising-star who, without wasting time, is carving out his own space. He's making his way with a sui generis sound and a sure sense of direction, just like Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny did.

        Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
03 - General Thunder ► 04 - Roger the Dodger ► 06 - Splendor Riot