The new album from Bill MacKay, Forest Fire, out today on Drag City, is a record full of beautiful music. The guitar-playing of MacKay is remarkably nimble and the tunes themselves are tuneful and lovely. This is simple music that contains real richness and depth.
"Pre-California" sees Bill MacKay open this release with a plucked run through near-blues-forms, while the lighter "Birds of May" is pure folk-y goodness. At times on Forest Fire, a listener can detect traces of earlier pioneers like Bert Jansch and Richard Thompson here in the playing, with MacKay imbuing this with enough flashes of originality to make the material feel entirely new. "Man and His Panic" finds MacKay taking things down a bit, while "Welcome" is spry inventiveness. The best number here, the epic "Dragon Country", is a neat blend of blues hooks and vaguely fusion-y bursts of tonal color.
Forest Fire reveals Bill MacKay to be one of the most expressive guitarists active today, with lots and lots of this record straddling a few genres with ease. Bill MacKay's playing gets equal attention here as does his voice, maybe more, and a listener feels that something timeless is at work here, even as one detects the points of inspiration from various genres that MacKay's drawing from.
Forest Fire is out today via Drag City.
[Photo: William Keihn]