Release Date: Mar 19, 2013
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Country, Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Folk, Instrumental Rock, American Underground, Alternative Folk
There was a time in the mid-‘70s when solo instrumental guitar players suddenly became all the rage. Well, certainly in England they did. In my ever disintegrating memory, it was John Williams and Julian Bream who were responsible for the incursion of strange-looking men, sitting on stools earnestly plucking away on the guitar to songs with no words (songs, with no words! What on earth was going on?) beamed into my living room via the flickering black-and-white television in the corner.
Nashville guitarist William Tyler’s role in the revolving cast of Lambchop only hinted at his prodigious musical gifts. Impossible Truth is his second album of instrumental guitar compositions, and it marks a considerable progression from his impressive solo beginnings. Tyler has always sounded influenced by the Takoma school of guitar playing, with his music often underpinned by open string drones and his structures feeling circular or open-ended.
William TylerImpossible Truth[Merge; 2013]By Brian Hodge; April 19, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetOn 2010’s Behold the Spirit, guitarist William Tyler seemed to be asking some tough questions, and turning to his six- and twelve-stringed guitar for help. Aided by splashes of lap steel and ambient effects, it was consequently labeled “folk music," though the album often looked to myths and legends for its inspiration. Just consider some of the song titles: “Terrace of the Leper King,” “Tears and Saints," and “The Cult of the Peacock Angel." After a career backing some of indie rock’s best bands (Lambchop, the Silver Jews, Bonnie Prince Billy), Behold The Spirit was an impressive debut.
I have no idea what the Carter years were like; I was born in 1985, the year after 1984. The year after we got over/past 1984. 2013 is that year in some regards: the year we got over 2012. Either you were a practitioner of pseudo-scientific, misplaced Mayan anxieties or you were a concerned person in a t-shirt on a northwestern February day.
The Nashville-based William Tyler is obviously an amazing guitar player, but it takes some accumulated hours with his music before you begin to notice and savor his deeper qualities. Making an album of wordless solo guitar compositions that remains interesting for its duration is hard, demanding a range of subtle skills far beyond nimble fingers-- a fine, exacting ear for color, an intuitive sense of momentum, a mind for musical structures. These are fragile musical gifts, difficult to cultivate and even harder to point out, and they become even more fragile when the focus bears down on a single instrument: You are painfully exposed, both as a player and as a musical mind.
After touring as a guitar player with Lambchop and Silver Jews for over a decade, William Tyler has tumbleweeded his way across the country enough times to be a scholar on the wonders of the American west. On Impossible Truth, Tyler tumbles from the badlands of South Dakota, all the way to California, until finally rolling right into Laurel Canyon. That final destination was inspired by Barney Hoskyns’ Hotel California and Mike Davis’ The Ecology of Fear—two books with a strange California-themed kinship that Tyler read on “lonely midwestern drives,” before blending their bizarre subject matters to form the nuanced story that is Impossible Truth.
On 2010's Behold the Spirit, guitarist William Tyler created a mysterious six- and twelve-string universe peppered with inventive harmonic and stylistic techniques and odd ambient sounds. He asked musical questions and never expected answers. By contrast, The Impossible Truth evokes a mercurial musical past (the shadows of the '70s singer/songwriter era in Los Angeles and his hometown of Nashville), and an American geography that has been created, unmade and remodeled.
After years of playing with fellow alt-country bands Lambchop and Silver Jews, William Tyler has released his second solo album, capturing his unique and haunting guitar playing. Impossible Truth conveys Tyler's Nashville via California take on country twang and everything in between. It serves as the folk soundtrack to an interstate drive down old route 66, encapsulating a love of the West and the country spirit.
Guitarist/composer Tyler earned blog love for his first solo album, Behold The Spirit. This, his first recording for hip label Merge, will likely do the same. Tyler terms it "my '70s singer-songwriter record; it just doesn't have any words." That description is actually quite apt; his atmospherics and ambience conjure a feeling of wide-open spaces, with traces of desolation and decay on the landscape.
The impossible truth to fathom here is how guitar-plucking American turk William Tyler is able to fashion such an earnest and self-consciously literary soundscape when he looks so impossibly young. In my mind, the sand-blasted, sun-drenched and sooty soft toy on the front of a coast-to-coast travelling flatbed truck has whispered into the ear of our finger picking pioneer, and he has transferred the mascot's musings to music. The official line though is that Tyler has been influenced by two apocalyptic literary tomes: Barney Hoskins' Hotel California and Mike Davis' The Ecology of Fear.
For a relatively young man, Nashville’s William Tyler has seen a fair bit of action in his time as a musician. He’s perhaps best know as a decade-long sideman for Lambchop, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and The Silver Jews, which gave him limited room to show off his exceptional talent as a guitarist while letting him tour and record with kindred spirits who share his interest in a certain strand of Americana. Since then he’s released his solo debut Behold the Spirit: a discourse in six and twelve string guitars and a look at myths and legends, ostensibly a “folk” record that led to whispered comparisons to the great John Fahey (William, I promise that’s the only reference I’ll make to that artist) but also to current fellow travellers such as Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance.
When Nashville-born solo guitarist William Tyler played the Mercury Lounge last October as part of the Merge showcase during the CMJ Marathon, he introduced the track “Country Of Illusion” by talking about Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, the 1980 film that marked the end of 1970s auteur-driven American cinema and nearly destroyed its studio, United Artists. Standing on stage with only his guitar, the boyish 33-year-old never sang during his set, but he spoke to the crowd with a sly drawl and a youthful exuberance, explaining the origins of the movie, its ambitious director and its significance as an epoch-defining film. “It was a huge flop,” he said, “and it’s premiere was one week after Ronald Reagan was elected president.