Boomkat Product Review:
There seems to have been a lot of activity in the Loren Connors camp of late. Before Connors' recent, hyper-limited "Hymn Of The North Star" LP, last year's Night Through 3CD set provided a relatively concise overview of his remarkable career, unearthing rarities, out of print 7"s and CD-R tracks. All this seemed to paint a pretty comprehensive portrait of Connors' various identities as a guitarist, tapping into electric blues, group work as part of Haunted House and more recent acoustic recordings. Now, with this new double compilation, Family Vineyard focus on a single area of Connors' composition and playing, namely 'Airs', a term which in this instance refers to instrumentally-arranged song forms. These miniatures take on aspects of Irish balladry, filtered through Connors' unique take on the blues. Consequently, Connors' murky melancholy has seldom sounded so lyrical - and so direct - as on these tracks. You'll find ten albums' worth of airs collated for this release (only two of which are still in print) and despite covering some 43 pieces the guitarist always manages to find new ways of presenting his music. Some of these pieces are incredibly fragile, with Connors' guitar sounding exposed and beaten. Take for example the waifish tones of 'Little Shoes': there's a level of restraint and infinitesimally detailed phrasing, but the whole piece is soaked with a profound sense of solitude. 'Frozen Star' is equally beautiful, but relies on echoing volume swells of Stratocaster to create a kind of lonesome, gusty ambience. It's that combination of an instantly recognisable, effortlessly expressive voice with a pronounced sense of vulnerability which defines Connors' enduring greatness as an artist. Notably, there are a number of previously unreleased pieces spread across the two discs, fitting beautifully alongside established works, and although the compilation is billed as covering 1992-2002, the second disc closes on an air lifted from the Sails album ('Here, I'll Whisper It To You', taking the name 'As Roses Bow' for this release), which only hit shelves last year. The abundance of material and the broad timeframe involved gives you some indication of how big a fixture in Connors' work this kind of piece has been, and continues to be. Wonderful stuff, as ever.