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Follow the River Home
By Jeff Pearce
Label: Jeff Pearce Music
Released 6/1/2016
Follow the River Home tracks
1. Under Summer Stars
2. Downstream l
3. Outpost
4. Snowfall
5. Downstream ll
6. Gathering Stars
7. Follow the River Home
Jeff Pearce-follow the river home
I remember the first time I heard Jeff Pearce's music. He was an independent artist and not all that many people knew of him, from what I could tell. Now, about 20 years later, his albums garner universal raves, he plays live all around the country, and he appears as a guest artist on many reputable musicians' recordings. He does all this while maintaining the same easy-going, down-to-earth, unpretentious, and amazingly humble personality he exhibited when I first contacted him those same 20 years ago (not as a reviewer but as a devout fan). What this has to do with his music is simply this: It takes someone of Jeff Pearce's nature to continually compose and record music that manages to wholly embrace the ambient aesthetic while at the same time also reflect the deepest feelings of human emotions, whether warm, dark, sad, introspective, full of awe and wonder, or lost in a sea of loneliness and despair. This is what makes him who he is as a musician, someone who delves deep into his own soul and then reveals what he finds to his listeners.

follow the river home is emblematic of these traits, as the diversity of the music (and this is easily Pearce's most diverse album so far) allows the listener to experience a range of emotional resonances. In some ways, this album is like a Disneyworld ride (a la It's A Small World) through the wide expanse of Pearce's ambient-guitar musical career (I am omitting his forays into both Chapman stick and piano). You have the overt guitar-oriented over-lapping notes drenched in reverb of the opening track "Under Summer Stars," (stunningly gorgeous and so evocative), to the broad vista soundscapes of "Downstream I" which will leave you slack-jawed when you realize that all this ambience is accomplished with just an electric guitar and effects. "Outpost" and its echoed plaintive guitar notes, ping-ponging like a solar sonar sounding device, sending its signal out into the universe over a bedrock of warm undulating drones. Then there is "Snowfall," which will shock all except those who attended the 2015 Zone Music Reporter awards show during which, in a stunning finale, Pearce showcased his ability to shred electric guitar riffs alongside the virtuoso talents of Paul Speer. "Snowfall" opens with cascading looped guitar chords before erupting into stinging leads that soar, cry, moan and sigh to the heavens. Who knew? Jeff Pearce—the ultimate cosmic rocker. "Downstream II" features looped guitar notes over a bed of drones like cascading aural raindrops streaming down a pane of glass, slowly subsiding into swirling ambience as the storm passes. The album centerpiece, the 20+ minute "Gathering Stars," is spacemusic bliss defined…amorphous guitar-driven textural soundscapes fluidly float across an inky black sky. This track is the equal of any piece of deep space drifting music you may have heard ever—hyperbole, but well deserved. Listen to it on headphones in a dark room and disagree with me - I dare ya! Finally, we come to rest with the concluding title track—a plaintive electric guitar refrain which echoes the brilliance of Mark Knopfler's soundtrack work on albums such as his soundtracks for Local Hero and Cal.

Watching an artist evolve his or her career over time is a curious thing as a reviewer, especially if we come to know the artist as a person, as I have been fortunate to do with Jeff Pearce. I am thrilled beyond my ability to state that he has achieved the notoriety that I anticipated 20 years ago, which is not to praise my prescience but rather to emphasize the eventuality of his talent surfacing for others to bask in and admire. My father once said to me "Billy, you cannot hide a light under a bushel without its light someday shining." Jeff Pearce's light shines brightly, and has for many years. follow the river home is both a signpost testifying to that as well as a wayside on the musical journey that Pearce is on. We are lucky to bear witness to this musical luminary and I, for one, can’t wait for what lies ahead.
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 1/24/2017
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