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BILL MACKAY

Bill MacKay

Locust Land

    Rolling and tumbling in his own sweet way, guitarist Bill MacKay discovers a territory all his own - 'Locust Land'. New vistas abound, Bill adds a measure of keyboard playing to his picking mastery, sings a few more, and, a devout and ceaseless collaborator, features a few other players (Sam Wagster, Mikel Patrick Avery and Janet Beveridge Bean). Whether played solo or with companions, Bill’s music projects the strength of the universal collective.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Phantasmic Fairy
    2. Keeping In Time
    3. Glow Drift
    4. Half Of You
    5. Oh Pearl
    6. Radiator
    7. When I Was Here
    8. Neil’s Field
    9. Locust Land

    Bill MacKay

    Fountain Fire

      Fountain Fire is Bill MacKay’s second solo album on Drag City. The Chicago-based guitarist’s continued sonic journeys in conversation with himself follow a travel-worn map written in his own hand. Bill has followed the trail from familiar confines to unknown places, catalyzing a style equally enamored with the traditional and the avant-garde to make his most expansive and forceful music to date.

      You can hear it in the opening track; as the lava and lakes of “Pre-California” simmer to boiling, Bill assembles a bridge of guitars, layering beams of rumbling acoustic, distorted electric, and arcing slide parts. By leaping boldly from fixed points, he makes synergetic discoveries in mid-air. This is the MacKay writing style in its most evolved state thus far, following serpentine paths within the patterns, lunging in and out of tonality with instinctive flair and a stoic sense of inevitability, forging a sonic mosaic that breathes and grows organically as it fills the space of a song.

      Yet there is far more here than straitlaced sonic captures of picker’s prowess and captivating harmonic motivation. Bill’s pieces are informed by meditation and memory, impressionistic as cinematic miniatures, inspired as much by filmic and literary passions as by sure-playing hands, and always rooted with deep soul and steady intention.

      As the pieces move in and out of focus in enticingly hallucinogenic fashion, Bill throws another element into play: a pair of stark and emotionally-charged vocal numbers that cause the hair to raise on the listener’s neck, etched as they are with a haunting and eerie beauty. Alongside the ever-shifting flows of instrumental color running through Fountain Fire, these moments shine blindingly, like mirages in the desert. The fire in the album title is a continuity in Bill’s life — part of his genealogy, his living history, his astrology, the scorching effect of the overdriven slide in the penultimate “Arcadia.” It is also a sigil for the chaos around us.

      Bill says: “While the record definitely reflects the turbulence and urgency of the times we’re living in, it also takes an autobiographical look back at the upheaval that characterized the nomadic rambles of my formative years. I learned to adapt to this constantly shifting landscape. Grasping the unfamiliar became second-nature, and the impressions made by the unknown rapidly entered my art. The bittersweet sense of fleeting time & place became a hallmark. Now is more of a time than ever to dramatize what matters to us through our art.”

      TRACK LISTING

      1 Pre-California
      2 Birds Of May
      3 The Movie House
      4 Man & His Panic
      5 Welcome
      6 Try It On
      7 Arcadia
      8 Dragon Country

      Bill MacKay & Ryley Walker

      SpiderBeetleBee

        Drag City presents the second volume of Bill MacKay and Ryley Walker’s inspired collaboration. It’s been nearly two years since their much-admired 2015 debut, Land of Plenty (Whistler Records), and SpiderBeetleBee more than makes up for lost time with rich, resonant performances that elevate the sound of the guitar duo as they work with an ever-widening panorama of styles.

        Their first album was developed over a month-long live residency at Chicago bar The Whistler, and reflected MacKay and Walker’s shared joy in a new relationship with a kindred spirit, in playing that might wordlessly finish a phrase or suggest a direction, as they spoke through their guitars. SpiderBeetleBee continues fluidly down the path of their initial psych-folk-blues-raga tandem, brewing further explorations in mixed-and-matched idioms, turning composed melodies inside-out via improvisation, and finding in the blend a shared Walker/MacKay pasture, serendipitously found somewhere between Appalachia and the Highlands.

        SpiderBeetleBee radiates forth with equal parts austerity and whimsy, opening with an almost-baroque dance before giving way to a Celtic theme, both featuring MacKay and Walker’s acoustics in rambling conversation, picking through intricate passages as though they were exchanges, thoughts and afterthoughts. The second of these, “Pretty Weeds Revisited” is enhanced by sonorous statements from Dutch cellist Katinka Kleijn (a veteran of the CSO), showing a deep, instinctive feel for the Walker/MacKay sound. The album then takes an unexpected turn at midpoint, slowly melting down and drifting soulfully through the expansive space of “Naturita.” Side two picks up the tempo on “I Heard Them Singing,” with the aid of MacKay’s requinto (a kind of 5-string Mexican guitar), Walker’s rolling chords and the percolating tabla of Ryan Jewell, suggesting a hitherto unknown short-cut from Brazil to India. Drafts of slide guitar and bittersweet blues evocation illumine further fruitful travels before “Dragonfly”, also featuring Ms. Kleijn’s haunting cello, closes the cycle with a flourish.

        Adorned with Bill MacKay’s colorful and wilfully primitive cover-art, SpiderBeetleBee wanders through styles, landmasses and hemispheres, capturing the further adventures of MacKay and Walker with spellbinding snapshots that only bloom larger the longer you take them in.

        TRACK LISTING

        1 The Grand Old Trout
        2 Pretty Weeds Revisited
        3 Lower Chestnut
        4 Naturita
        5 I Heard Them Singing
        6 Stretching My Dollar In Plano
        7 Lonesome Traveler
        8 Dragonfly


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