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Gene Estribou & Jean-Paul Pickens - Intensifications

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Artist: Gene Estribou & Jean-Paul Pickens

Album: Intensifications

Label: Locust

Review date: Oct. 26, 2004

Cut in the mid-1960s, Intensifications originally saw the light of day on Henry Jacobs' MEA label before being buried under a pyre of narcotics and free love. Now those good folk at Locust have seen fit to exhume this prime slice of latter day deltadelica, a genuine folk artefact of '60s San Francisco.

Gene Estribou and Jean-Paul Pickens, unaccompanied on acoustic guitar and banjo respectively, both helped themselves to a side each of the original LP, exploring a range of styles and textures that will be familiar to worshippers of the Takoma roster and the slew of contemporary folk-revivalists, such as Six Organs of Admittance, Jack Rose and UK guitarist James Blackshaw.

The first four tracks belong to Estribou and encapsulate a thrilling and passionate approach to the limits of the six-string. From the strong, almost Phil Ochs-like, melody lines and cascading patterns of opener "You Know – The One You Played Saturday Night" to the Indian classical mantras of "Eeee Minor," the entire set should ensure Estribou's name is rightfully mentioned alongside the likes of Messrs. Fahey, Basho and Kottke in the hallowed Museum of Americana string-pickers.

The aptly named Jean Paul-Pickens made his living as a carpenter and woodsman, but his first love was the banjo. While listening to pieces, such as "Shady Grows" and "Coo Coo Bird," you can just picture Pickens taking a well deserved break from his daily exertions, parking himself beneath the shade of a leafy tree, and launching himself at the strings with a primitive fury - dedications to old Appalachia, harking back to the time of the Clinch Mountain Boys and the Stanley Brothers. In his impatience to get the music out, the musician occasionally appears to lose control of his instrument, notes tumbling with frantic autonomous energy as the tunes threaten to implode. Final track, "G.R.," comes as a welcome surprise, with its subtle, simplistic refrains conjuring visions of Middle-Eastern bazaars and the muddled bargain basement esoterica of the Sun City Girls.

By Spencer Grady

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