Salsburg has proved himself a fine guitarist as sideman and collaborator – working with the likes of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Wooden Wand – but here, on his third album (so it’s not just a clever title) he stands musically naked: just him and his acoustic guitar, no guests, no words. This all-instrumental folk guitar album is quietly majestic. The playing sublime. Appalachia is evoked throughout, the Kentuckian’s day-job has been as curator of The Alan Lomax Archive – sifting through those field recordings has allowed so much to seep into his playing.
Here you’ll hear shades of other fine contemporary/ish players (Martin Simpson on the dreamlike Exilic Excursions, Bert Jansch often, though perhaps most overtly on Sketch from Life) and just as often as Salsburg reaches out to make his own space (Offering) there are moments when he circles back through not just folk tropes (Walls of the World) but hints of jazz too, an understanding of ragtime, wafts and hints of the old-time dance music – this is melodically rich, graceful and exquisitely played.
But it’s that rare thing – an instrumental album that shows of prowess without being just – and only – for the guitarists in the crowd. This is music, pure, heartfelt. The playing is wonderful, the skill obvious, but that shouldn’t ever be alienating. And we all know from that boorish friend trying to push something on us that isn’t ever quite right that it can so often happen.
Not here. Salsburg is not just the real deal, his heart and soul hears – and translates – sweet, sweet music. And Third is his finest offering to date.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron