The Hollow Tree
Tyson Smith has been knocking around Wellington for most of the last decade – before that it was Christchurch, and a stint overseas soaking up almost any kind of music he could. He’s been Hollie Smith’s guitarist and has played in almost any kind of context, as solo artist, as part of a duo, big band, small combo working with orchestras.
For his second album he’s created a fantastic trio with his guitar, bass, percussion and voice supported by Ed Zuccollo on the Moog synth and Rick Cranson’s drums. The interplay of the trio – on the tracks where all three feature – is constantly dazzling. The obvious jazz pedigree of the players shines even though you’d never call this music jazz. In fact it’s almost every other genre but jazz – from twisted country (Red Stone) to jam-band rock (Line of Sight) via world music ideas (Down The Track) and gentle folk singer/songwriter moments (Winding Our Way).
At any moment the power of the trio can kick in – elevating a simple song to an epic jam. It’s a melting pot of psychedelic rock and acoustic blues, elements of funk/fusion and this strong jam-band feel.
It’s taken me a while to settle into Smith’s voice – the opening brace of tunes here really fly because of the instrumentation and arrangement rather than for the vocals or lyrics. But further down the album the vocal cuts (particularly Too Late Too Soon) start to make sense.
And the closing, title track moves expertly from a slow dirge with an American song hiding inside to a colossal wig-out jam. Tyson’s guitar playing is often exploratory, it probes and searches within the song, it hints at the freeform-meets-straight-rock approach of the likes of Chris Forsyth.
And he has the right musicians working with him here, deeply intuitive, guiding themselves by feel and feeling their way through each song to always enhance never detract.
There’s plenty here to like – and it feels like it’ll be a great summer blaster too.