John Gregorius: Still Voice
Such a stirringly beautiful recording from guitarist John Gregorius. The forty-seven-minute release documents the Southern Californian's exceptional gifts as a musician and composer, but Still Voice, his follow-up to his Spotted Peccary debut Heaven and Earth, also benefits from some invaluable guest contributions. Lending support to Gregorius's acoustic and electric guitar playing are vocalist/pianist Kimberly Daniels, cellist Irina Chirkova, clarinetist Keith Ward, upright bassist Eric Pittman, and violist Eric Brenton, among others. The guitarist's music eschews irony for straight-up sincerity, and the result is genuine music of depth, humanity, and character.
The typical album setting doesn't serve as a showcase for the leader's guitar playing, though one definitely comes away from the album cognizant of his considerable prowess on the instrument (revealed to wondrous effect on the solo acoustic spotlight “Salt and Light”). Instead, the ten pieces on Still Voice register first and foremost as compositional productions that do feature the guitar in a lead role but accompanied by other critical instrument voices, too. The album gets off to an entrancing start when “Grounded in Mystery” serenades the listener with generous helpings of his chiming guitar work, after which “Wonder of Grace” perpetuates the album's uplifting vibe with an enveloping dreamscape of its own.
Never, however, is the guitarist's music more affecting than on “Fall into the Open,” a lovely chamber-styled exercise in pastoralia whose arrangement complements Gregorius's acoustic fingerpicking with heartfelt vocal and instrumental enhancements by his guests. As Daniels' gentle voice coos “Just fall into the open,” it's hard not to be swept away by the quietly rapturous tone of the music. Her wordless hush also appears on “The Dance,” a gorgeous eight-minute testament to Gregorius's spiritually replenishing vision.
Indicative of just how grand an accomplishment Still Voice is, the wistful acoustic guitar theme gracing the title track suggests something Mike Oldfield might have composed early in his career; “True Self,” on the other hand, exudes a stately grandeur that one hears in Jonas Munk's best Manual work. There's at times an almost New Age quality to these soul-stirring tapestries, though I hesitate to use the term when it carries with it so many associations, not all of them complimentary. In the long run, Gregorius's productions are so spirit-nourishing that maybe it's best to set labels aside and simply celebrate music of such tranquil splendour on no other terms but its own.