Boomkat Product Review:
The much anticipated 'Luck In The Valley' arrives in the shadow of the desperately sad and untimely death of Jack Rose.
This posthumous release is a typically inscrutable outing for an artist who seldom put a foot wrong throughout his short yet prolific career. It finds him surrounded by friends, taking a tone that's somewhere between that of his usual outings as a lone six-string slinger and the more raucous, group-based work with The Black Twig Pickers (who make an appearance on this album, incidentally).
First track 'Blues For Percy Danforth' is a lapsteel raga that reveals Rose's playing technique in all its effortlessness and expressive fluidity, taking the precise and dexterous picking techniques of the American Primitive style and infusing them with the kind of articulations you'd associate with sitar music. 'Lick Mountain Ramble' is more of a group effort, representing a joyous Appalachian hoedown, whereas 'Woodpiles On The Side Of The Road' is a more melancholy, solo blues number. The tone of the record is in a continual state of flux, exploring the various textures and temperaments of vintage American music, switching from the honky-tonk goodtime romp 'When Tailgate Drops, The Bullshit Stops' (complete with barroom piano and harmonica accompaniment) to the almost Mariachi-like feel of the Latin and flamenco influenced 'Tree In The Valley'.
Aside from his technique, you might argue that what absolutely singles Rose out among his peers is the sense of classic ragtime rhythm. The title track serves as an especially wonderful example of this, perfectly distilling the essence of a hundred-year-old artform and making it sound like a perfect fit with the 2010's. Similarly, Rose takes on covers of pre-war classics with commendable authenticity and swagger, the closing 'West Coast Blues' (originally by Blind Blake) proving to be an especially glorious and fittingly rowdy finale to the album. It's painful to think that this is the last we'll hear from Jack Rose. He was one of the only post-Takoma guitarists of his generation you could consider to be truly great, and Luck In The Valley is an exemplary vessel for his craft, perhaps demonstrating more broadly than on any of his prior works the fullness of his range and accomplishments as a musician.