Frontier Psychiatrist

Clothesline Revival – Instrumental Americana

Posted on: August 19, 2010

Clothesline Revival

The words “Americana” and “instrumental” rarely appear together in a sentence, but they succinctly define a unique new record from Clothesline Revival, They Came From Somewhere. This third release by California composer and guitarist Conrad Praetzel’s group features solid finger pickin’ and country blues coupled with synth textures and samples, with expert production and mixing that blends the analog and the digital. In lieu of a rhythm section, drums are programmed and the low-end work is done on keyboards.   Conrad has help from his longtime collaborator Robert Powell who chimes in on lap steel and pedal steel, as well as  legendary blues harmonica man Charlie Musselwhite.

The most striking aspect of this record is the lush atmospheres and nearly New Age ambiance: simple melodies plucked on an acoustic guitar and bathed in luxurious soundscapes. Sometimes the repetitions of old timey blues induce trances, but when coupled with studio effects these blues patterns are deeply seductive. On “King Soloman Hill” the background textures reflect the guitar’s meditative mood.

Clothesline Revival, King Soloman Hill

Not all of the tracks are serene meditations. Praetzel also pops and swings in the country blues style, injecting old themes with new life via studio effects and drum samples. “The Resurrection of John Henry” makes your ears stand up and listen with each down beat slash of the reverb heavy lap steel.

Clothesline Revival, The Resurrection of John Henry

“Cootie Catcher” features an ultra modern drum track behind an old timey acoustic sound. Without the slide guitar and banjo, the beat might be pumping beneath some Top 40 romp. Such juxtaposition defines Clothesline’s style and occurs in some way on each track.

Clothesline Revival, Cootie Catcher

Clothesline Revival, Snake Walk

“Snake Walk” combines all three of these techniques into an up tempo track that evokes a carnival atmosphere, which reflects the funhouse mirror mood of the cover art.  Those two bizarre and larger than life figures striding among all the marks at the fair grounds might as well be Conrad and Robert, delivering the escape from everyday reality not as side show freaks, but accomplished musicians straddling two eras with chops and humor.

Clothesline Revival: Old TIme Meets New Age

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