Posthumous offering from Dr Ragtime.
Spencer Grady 2010-02-15
A dark shadow hangs over Luck in the Valley. The premature death of its author, Jack Rose, from a heart attack at the tender age of 38 could have easily turned its release into a mournful wake. But such is the joie de vivre exhibited here that this album forms a rousing six-string celebration, a tribute to a prodigious and sure to be much-missed talent.
From its opening salvo – the luscious raga ripples contained within Blues for Percy Danforth and the full-band hoedown hootenanny of Lick Mountain Ramble – Luck in the Valley is, even at its most contemplative, imbued with its architect’s lust for life. Even the album’s title refers to the old red light district of St Louis and was code for procuring the services of a prostitute.
It’s an album that finds Rose happily referencing his influences, quoting liberally from the past to forge a work that’s equal parts homage to, and evolution from, the traditionalist template. The guitarist once flippantly commented that he only ever listened to music from the pre-war era (pertinently not true) and so it’s no surprise to find him wading in with three versions of tunes from that period. Of these, Everybody Ought to Pray Sometime shines the brightest, driven with pure southern Baptist fire on the back of the kind of spritely twang that made those early recordings by The Stanley Brothers such an unmitigated joy. The leading lights of his beloved Takoma imprint (John Fahey, Robbie Basho, Leo Kottke and Peter Walker), are also conjured up on tunes like Woodpiles on the Side of the Road, a delicious slice of primetime Americana, and the Fahey-esque pluck-fest of the title-track.
Whereas some of Rose’s previous long-players have seen him explore the experimental trajectories of his old group, Pelt (some of whose members contribute accompaniment here), Luck in the Valley finds him totally at home on the ranch, sat in his rocking chair and surrounded by friends gathered around the porch deck. It’s a fitting last hurrah from a true American primitive.