five string glossolalia
A trio of random emails hit me in a few hours' span last week, each casually mentioning that I should check out Uncle Woody Sullender that evening at Nightlight in Chapel Hill. By chance, I had already made plans after my memory was rechecked via a preview in the Independent. Sullender had sent some recordings my way in the past, and while his name didn't immediately ring my bell his style did: improvised banjo. Yes, backwoods freedom clucks and stomps; Incus meets Dock Boggs; post-modern American-primative, blah, blah, blah. (The aforementioned article talks of his Mats Gustafsson influence; collaboration with electronic maverick Maryanne Amacher and role in the sadly departed Transmission Festival).
At Nightlight, Sullender injected a microscopic distillation into the banjo, working his way through an insect-like sphere during a 30+ minute set that sent me home to dig out the disk in question, Nothing Is Certain but Death. Released late-2004 on Sullender's Dead CEO label, the album needs to be sought. Cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and vocalist Carol Genetti make apperances. Jason Soliday (aka Crank Satori) taliors his harsh abstract electronics on a piece to feel as if they were woven into the grooves of a 78.
Accompanied by fellow Chicagoian cellist Kevin Davis during the performance, Sullender slipped straight into chattering backwoods clouds and sound clusters that had all the points of Roger Smith to Terry Earl Taylor. Country tongues and delicious melodies leapt out sparsely enough to ground the tradition Sullender was expounding with his five string glossolalia. The inescapable twang melted perfectly into the contrasting bed of bowing-crunch that Davis dealt. That twang can never be sliced clear of the banjo, and it need not be, since it so richly adds to Sullender's take on the instrument, history and improv -- fans of all three should dig in.
Uncle Woody Sullender - Don't Say Goodbye Til I'm In Chicago
Uncle Woody Sullender - Sallie Goodman Breakdown
Kevin Davis-Dave Rempis Duo - 1.2
Kevin Davis-Dave Rempis Duo - 1.6