Paul Tasker – Tierra Quemada
Yellowroom Records – 1 April 2022
Best known for his work with singer Iona Macdonald in the band Doghouse Roses and previously as a member of the Willard Grant Conspiracy, guitarist Paul Tasker released ‘Cold Weather Music’, his first solo album, in 2016. Nick Dellar praised the instrumental album for its uniqueness in his review here. Influenced as much by guitarists such as Bert Jansch as he is by contemporary pianists like Nils Frahm, Tasker continues that instrumental musical journey on Tierra Quemada (Scorched Earth) released earlier this month (1st April via Yellowroom Records – YLLWRM-015).
While the album’s title touches on the current environmental crisis, it is also derived from a family connection with Valencia in Spain, colours of which can be heard on the album. As with his previous release, repeat listens reveal greater depth and nuance to his music. Alongside guitar, the banjo features heavily on this release, augmented by some top-notch guests, including Laura-Beth Salter on Mandolin, Rachel Hair on Harp, Una McGlone on Bass, Richard Evan on viola, Robert Henderson on trumpet and Dejan Lapanja on drums.
The banjo shines brightest on the opening, humorously titled Womble the Sausage Dog, written about a neighbour’s wire-haired dachshund on which Laura-Beth Salter’s mandolin features:
Tierra Quemada by Paul Tasker
The migratory nature of music from his native Scotland is explored on the gentle Riding Out, a pace that’s maintained for two beautiful clawhammer banjo waltzes, Firefly and Last Waltz.
A personal favourite that has echoes of Jansch and Renbourn is the upbeat and sublime Roadtrippin’ which beautifully contrasts the guitar and banjo. The tune was written during a 2006 American road trip of borrowed guitars journeying from Austin, Texas, to San Francisco. The contrast in musical colours brings that ‘special something’ to this album. On Murmuration, we get this again as a driving guitar underpins a more classical sounding banjo in a most unexpected but fascinating way.
For DMT, we are treated to a contemplative solo guitar piece. That meditative pace continues on After the Rain, which, with the addition of Robert Henderson’s trumpet, adds Spanish, almost Texacali shades before drifting away on Richard Evan’s viola accompaniment.
There is no shortage of originality and vibrancy on Tierra Quemada, and while there may not be that sense of urgency that the album’s title may at first suggest, it’s the reminder of the natural beauty that surrounds us that Tasker seems to have captured so well in this contemplative and moving instrumental album. There’s a sense of optimism in the regeneration and change suggested by Tasker. The album highlights not just his string skills but also his ability to create vivid soundscapes through arrangements that engage and draw the listener into the moment. It’s a remarkable album.
Tierra Quemada is out now. Order via Bandcamp: