(Thunder Ridge Records, CD, digital download)
I could easily imagine “Garlic Patch Rag,” the first track on Doug Perkins’ new album, playing alongside the opening credits to one of Woody Allen’s lighter endeavors — perhaps Radio Days. This is true of a large portion of the album’s tracks. The lineup for the majority of Music for Flat-Top Guitar is Perkins on acoustic guitar, Jamie Masefield on mandolin, Patrick Ross on fiddle and Tyler Bolles on upright bass. And every Vermont musician, fan and critic knows that these names bode something good.
What’s immediately apparent about Perkins’ latest is the chemistry among the musicians. It’s not uncommon within the acoustic genres for the front person’s backup band to change depending on who’s available at the time of a gig or recording session. But the sonic bond heard here just might be unbeatable, and to mess with it would be a shame.
The switch-ups and trade-offs that keep Music for Flat-Top Guitar moving forward, up, down and back are the products of a like-minded and tuned-in crew. And the playing of each individual is just impeccable.
The tunes are traditionals and Perkins-penned originals, and they sound so natural and consistent, it seems Perkins’ songs must have always existed. At the same time, there’s a sense that the songs are being imagined and played simultaneously, and the resulting freedom is utterly joyful.
Music for Flat-Top Guitar could be the soundtrack to one of your groggy, Sunday-morning excursions in search of coffee and the meaning of your life. Perkins and co. gently offer you a moment to breathe, to slow down, to dwell in the excellence of their sound.
Doug Perkins celebrates the release of his new record with a show at the Skinny Pancake in Burlington this Saturday, December 8.