Ross Hammond – It's been here the whole time
Independent – 2021
Anyone who has heard a lot of Nic Jones or Chris Woods music will have heard the C Modal (CGCGCD) mood used so often by both players. Tuning benefits from having three strings tuned to the root, which gives it that drone-like, modal quality, plus the high D that acts as the second to the root. It's a crisp mood that has a beautifully open and sweet texture, and it's the mood that California resonator guitarist Ross Hammond discovered and used exclusively for It's Been Here All Along. This is a really confident and true solo instrumental album; Eighteen songs are played over seventy minutes, with that one guitar tuning and only the resonator. It takes quite a bit of work to keep the listener interested with such a limited toolbox. Even so, Ross is a skilled and talented player and his varied style and wide range ensure the album goes by smoothly and it is easy to see why the original plan to reduce the number of tracks to the normal album length was abandoned became.
It's hard to pick melodies, but the little melancholy melody and stoic bass notes of Loss are hard to resist. Persistence is another, with more notes and a faster tempo, which this time adds some drama and complexity. The almost banjo-like sound character of some of the plucked strings also works well here, emphasizing the nuances of the resonator and expanding its sound.
Winter is Over is even better, the longest song at six and a half minutes. Here the calm and relief of a new spring is expressed in evenly picked strings and slide notes. The relaxed character of the piece is enhanced by rarely used deep tones, which maintains a feeling of lightness.
On the flip side, Cold Morning Blues comes our way before the warm fingers of spring are felt, and the ominous thumbs-down bass strings lurking beneath a heavily bluesy slide-line (which is the occasional sound of the slide scratching the strings especially welcome) lead to a much darker and brooding melody. It's Rain Season goes in a similar direction, with a return of the gently fingered low string, but the melody is sweeter and softer than Cold Morning Blues. In fact, the patient nature of the piece and the hints of melancholy made this one of my favorites on the album.
More important, however, is the fact that each song has its own character, but all belong together and manage to balance an extensive but tightly focused set. Ross tries not to do too much here, but with the game at such a high level and the varied and interesting material he knows that there is no need to embellish it. Simply put, It's Been Here All Along is a pleasure to listen to and a fine example of the richness that can be found in the simplicity and purity of solo guitar music.
It's Been Here All Along is available from Bandcamp: https://rosshammond.bandcamp.com/album/its-been-here-all-along