marianoThe open road has always played a role in our transformative journeys, and with his new album, Argentinean guitarist Mariano Rodriguez evokes its mysteries and possibilities. Bill Meyer cites the trips of the Apostle Paul, Charles Darwin, Jack Kerouac, and Che Guevara in Praise the Road’s liner notes, but the associations Rodriguez’s calming guitar, banjo, organ, and Jew’s harp conjure up are limited only by your own imagination and points of reference: I think of William Least Heat-Moon, quoting from his 1982 travelogue, Blue Highways: A Journey Into America: “When you’re traveling, you are what you are, right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”

Released via Grass Tops Recording, it’s natural to draw comparisons to Robbie Basho, whose work Grass Tops has reissued. But Rodriguez is his own man, a representative of the Imaginational Anthem school of guitar — in fact, he’s slotted to be included on the next installment of the long-running Tompkins Square series — building and expanding on the foundations laid down by Basho, Bull, and Fahey, incorporating punk and experimental roots, Middle Eastern and Latin themes, and his own unique wordless stories. Rodriguez hops: Listen to the Appalachian strut of “Brewmaster’s House,” the droning pulse of “Ragalamas,” the slide blues of “The Poisonous Chutney Recipe According to Mr. Joynes.”

Rodriguez paints vivid pictures; his open roads are sometimes ominous, sometimes dreamy, and most often beckoning. On the album’s best song, “Requiem for a Railroad Worker,” he layers ambient guitar feedback, a haunting melody, and the sounds of a midnight train. “My great-grandparents and my grandfathers were railroad workers, and my father paid for his studies by working on the railroad,” Rodriguez writes. “As a kid, I traveled almost all of Argentina with them by train.” In the song’s elegiac tones you can hear the sound of memories, and of possibility. Sounds of the road. words / j woodbury

Mariano Rodriguez :: Peter Creek

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