Boomkat Product Review:
Transcendent, next-level pedal steel recordings that refuse to stay still, embellishing the instrument's country roots with mind-altering infusions of Indian classical music, free jazz and drone.
Susan Alcorn began playing music as a toddler, helping her mother recite church songs. She developed quickly, picking up a few different instruments before settling on the pedal steel guitar and she's gradually become one of the world's most renowned players, channeling the instrument's ethereal twang through vastly different prisms of influence. On "The Heart Sutra" she enlists cellist and composer Janel Leppin, who arranges fleshed-out near-orchestral versions of Alcorn's originals, giving them a levity that's tough to describe: you really have to feel it.
The recording, from a 2012 performance at NYC's Issue Project Room, has an air of devotional music, as sacred vocal tones and strings swirl around Alcorn's unmistakable pedal steel drones. American primitive folk music still lies at the base of these pieces - just listen to 'Suite for Ahl', that twins almost banjo-esque strums with fiddle and makeshift church-cum-sea shanty vocals - but each is fashioned by Alcorn's wealth of knowledge and experience. Her interests range from Pauline Oliveros' deep listening philosophy to the wide spectrum of folk traditions, and each piece betrays an enthusiastic, passionate mind.
Fans of Arvo Pärt's sacred minimalism, Eyvind Kang's next-level collabs with Earth and Sunn O))) (he even appears here on viola), Christina Carter's genre-averse American folk explorations, or even Klezmer owe it to themselves to dig into this one, providing a level of soul nourishment apt for these times.