Acoustic guitar pioneer John Fahey influenced a generation of fingerpickers. But none sound more like his genuine musical heir than Toulouse Englehardt. According to his Facebook page Englehardt is, "without a doubt one of the only true masters of the 12 String Guitar on the planet! Toulouse was one of the last of the "Takoma 7", a notorious group of brilliant guitar innovators…who brought about the current renaissance of acoustic guitar music and who recorded for the legendary Takoma Records from 1959-1976." Englehardt's flair for hyperbole comes, no doubt, from a strong sense of self-worth.
As you might suspect, this is a solo guitar album. These tunes, with titles such as "Threnody to Sequoia Sempervirens" are more like musical landscapes than songs. Engelhardt's sense of rhythm isn't so much about strict 1-2-3-4 time as it about musical flow. His tunes speed up and slow down with irregular regularity.
Like John Fahey, Engelhardt tunes his 12-string guitar down several steps and is rewarded by a huge pianistic sonority that he utilizes to its fullest in tunes such as "Let The River Answer." Some tunes have several different rhythms and seemingly divergent parts that form an impressionistic commentary on time and melodic structure. Yep, Mr. Engelhardt loves to crawl out on musical limbs and then jump from one to another without falling.
I love/hate the recording techniques used on Perpendicular Worlds. The recording is brutally honest, with every finger sliding on strings faithfully captured, along with foot taps, moans, groans, and other spurious aural information. It ain't slick, but it is real. But is it so "real" that it is distracting? For me it's right on the borderline.
If you get a kick out of music that has some degree of odd mystery coupled with personal and idiosyncratic passion, Toulouse Engelhardt's latest, Perpendicular Worlds, should be on your must audition list.