Road To Palios

Ryan Francesconi & Mirabai Peart

Bella Union Records, 2013

http://are-f.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/09/2013

Joanna Newsom's Ys Street Band has had a wealth of talent over the years, which undoubtedly has contributed to her monumental success. Here, her former guitar player (Ryan Francesconi) and his partner and violinist (Mirabai Peart) pen a soothing disc after finding inspiration during a trip to the Greek Islands. Entirely instrumental, the disc actually feels like the soundtrack to a calm getaway, as the pair delivers an extremely detailed adventure of sounds that gives nods to Eastern Europe music with an emphasis on Balkan folk music. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The songs here are generally quite long, as the duo builds beautiful patterns that are sometimes minimal, other times meandering and always graceful and timeless. With just a violin and guitar, the vast amount of tones, textures, and ideas here is quite impressive, and the album works better taken as a whole rather than track-by-track.

“Parallel Flights” starts things off with energetic chord progressions and gorgeous interplay between the pair. It's obvious from the first moment the two are very much in sync with one another, feeding off each other’s strengths. “Christos” follows, and provides a sound so full and glorious, you would never think only two instruments were being utilized. By track thee, “Road To Palios,” the European influence seeps in, opening with an addictive Spanish inflected guitar melody. Though Francesconi's incredible guitar playing takes much of the focus here, on “Kalamatianos” Peart's violin acrobatics are center stage, which leads into the disc closer and the darkest yet most emotive song present, “Not Ned (Part 1).” 

This is a record without any overdubs or studio tricks, creating an entirely organic experience of warm, lush, and sophisticated brilliance. The Baroque, Americana, and jazz ideas are certainly very prevalent, though the folk template outweighs most of the other elements. Sometimes bordering on therapeutic, while other times a cathartic display of sweeping melodies, this an exceptional display of instrumental genius.

Rating: A

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