Danny Paul Grody: Fountain
Root Strata

A remarkably accomplished outing from Danny Paul Grody, founding member of both San Francisco-based bands Tarentel and The Drift, Fountain is also his first solo recording. Grody builds the album's tracks around a foundation of acoustic and electric guitars and then ornaments them with dashes of piano, voice, and melodica. The material exudes a kind of homespun, backwoods vibe but also a hazy dreamscaping quality that calls to mind the mystical stylings of Popol Vuh and Björn Olsson. Grody touches on multiple bases without sacrificing a unified feel: there's an ambient drone (“Covered Mirrors”), and even a piece that conveys all the tranquility of an Eno instrumental scored for acoustic ensemble (“Night Blooms”). But best of all are those tracks featuring sparkling webs of finger-picking, such as the stately title piece, which Grody nicely warms with lush keyboard motifs, and “Natural West,” infused by the beguiling lyricism of the American folk tradition. The album opens in a laconic mode with “Dawn,” all strummed acoustic guitars and sleepy, late-afternoon-on-the-front-porch ambiance, before moving onto “Well Wisher,” where unhurried finger-picking imbues the song with a meditative aura. Sounds of rain and traffic noise shadow “Hungry/Haunted,” a brooding setting that Grody beautifully tinges with melancholy in the song's crystalline guitar melodies. The music feels like it's constantly in motion, not at a frenetic pace but restlessly, uprootedly, like the way a truck driver's journey seems to never end but is instead a perpetual cross-country stop-and-go (in “Route 1,” a harmonium-like drone accent even suggests the horn of an 18-wheeler). It's interesting, too, that Greg Davis mastered the album, given how much its mood pieces sometimes suggests kinship with Davis's Arbor. Grody's quietly exuberant Fountain drinks from a similarly uplifting and humanistic well.

March 2010