Eric Carbonara - "Gaggle to Jolly" (The Paradise Abyss)
When nylon-string guitarist Eric Carbonara first conceived this album, the idea was to make a statement of pure intent from start to finish. Each composition represents an episode in his life, and is constructed so as to remain true to that episode’s emotional resonance. He played them all on a hand-made instrument, as if to renounce his former practice of shredding his way through a chain of pedals. He originally meant to print the covers on paper made from weeds he pulled out of his back yard, but settled for simply hand-printing the sleeves and self-burning the CD-Rs; someone else pressed the LPs.
Fortunately, all this focus on process and personal objectives has not devolved into solipsism. While a title like “Gaggle to Jolly” doesn’t tell you much about what the tune means, the tune doesn’t have any trouble reaching out and engaging you. Carbonara moves through its light-stepping ascending melodies and brisk flamenco flourishes with an economy that imparts drama without any aftertaste of melodrama. “Charles Smokes A Cigarette” lifts a few West African phrases and spins them into a quietly seething blues for a neighbor that Carbonara really wanted out of his life. It sells Carbonara short to bill him as a guitarist — with this record he’s become a composer for guitar who happens to play what he writes.
But this is still a record of solo acoustic guitar music, and one that draws on a fairly traditional vocabulary. Carbonara’s Indian influence (he’s a student of Debashish Bhattacharya) is embedded in the seriousness of his stance more than his overt sound, which owes the most to gypsy strumming.
If you’re already on the defensive against such recitals, this one won’t change your mind. The Paradise Abyss is a record for people who are already ready to fall into its embrace rather than one out to make converts.