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Harris Newman: Non-Sequiturs

These days it seems as though anyone performing instrumental music with an acoustic guitar as the centerpiece is automatically referenced to the late John Fahey. So it comes as an invigorating breath of fresh air to hear the music of Harris Newman, a guitarist from Montreal, Canada whose musical approach actually does come from a perspective true to the American acoustic compositional tradition that Fahey and his Takoma Records imprint helped advance. Active in the musical/cultural hotbed that is Montreal – his resume boasts electric/upright bass duties in Constellation Records frayed-folksters Sackville, and conducts audio mastering work through his Grey Market Mastering company (clients include such Montreal luminaries as Fly Pan Am, Hanged Up, A Silver Mount Zion and countless others) – Harris Newman’s solo music is a beautiful beast of a decidedly different color than the typical Montreal scene. Newman is a fingerstyle steel-string acoustic guitarist possessing a remarkably detailed and lush sound, and he is creating some of the most lyrical compositions for the instrument to be heard anywhere. Non-Sequiturs is his debut release, a fabulous album of alternately effervescent and deeply mysterious acoustic guitar grandeur.

Newman’s acoustic fingerpicking dances and swaggers, creating a sunny expanse of tunes that are augmented by stark, introspective passages. Much like Fahey’s classic 1967 album The Yellow Princess, Non-Sequiturs juxtaposes giddy, pastoral songs against heady, experimental sound excursions. Opening with the galloping pace of “Around About Thirty-Six”, resonating steel-strings halos refract gilded light against the moody drone corridors of “I Fought the Lottery”. For a few of the tunes, Newman is joined by Montreal-area percussionist Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Esmerine), and the combination at times exhumes the exploratory genre-blending spirit of Sandy Bull’s first couple of albums; the muted, mallet-driven percussion grooves of “The Bullheaded Stranger” evoke Billy Higgins-style jazziness as an undercurrent for the tumbling, glistening guitar lines to burble over.

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