Guitarist John Lee Shannon's Tompkins Square debut, In & Of, out October 2nd. Recorded at Panoramic House in Stinson Beach CA, the album was intended as a collaboration with late guitarist and producer Neal Casal, who passed away a year ago this week (August 26, 2019).
Pre-order album at bandcamp
The single, "Analogue", is out today:
Notes from John Lee Shannon:
Andres Segovia famously referred to the guitar as being “like an orchestra looked at by the reverse side of the binoculars”. It was this idea, combined with a longstanding love of solo guitar music, that inspired the creation of the eleven pieces that constitute my debut album, In & Of.
My foremost goal was to create a collection of “songs without words”. Rather than succumbing to the tendency of instrumental music to be dry and cerebral, each composition began as a simple melody. From that seed, the idea was to tell a story that develops and unfolds throughout the song by utilizing the guitar’s orchestral qualities and capacity for harmony and counterpoint.
Steel-string acoustic guitar proved to be the perfectly blank canvas necessary to allow the music to present itself without being immediately assigned to a familiar category by the listener. As for the recording itself, it was intended to conjure the experience of being in one’s home, listening to someone play the guitar in the same room or perhaps the next one over; a sound I have always loved. Robert Cheek did an extraordinary job as sole recording and mixing engineer during a three-day session at the breathtaking Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, CA. A little while later, Andrew Weathers polished the tracks to a beautiful luster with his impeccable mastering.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the enthusiasm and encouragement of my dear friend, Neal Casal. This album is something I had been working on intermittently since roughly 2017. As a freelance musician and frequent sideman, much of my time is devoted to the music of others. I would chip away at this project during downtime, but when the next gig presented itself, it was off to the back-burner again.
I first met Neal in January of 2019 while recording Zephaniah OHora’s Listening To The Music, which he was producing and I was playing on. We quickly became friends (an easy feat with Neal) and over the next several months spent a lot of time talking about music and guitar. Eventually, I let him know about this handful of tunes I had been working on for some time, and his immediate reaction was “let’s dream it!”.
I sent him some demos, we talked about the vibe and general direction of the record I wanted to make, and before long a plan was hatched to record at the end of summer; immediately following another session we were both set to take part in at Panoramic. Sadly, Neal left us shortly before that ever came to pass, but I stuck to the plan and saw the recording through. It was challenging, but I’m so glad that I did. I couldn’t imagine a better way to honor the spirit of a wonderful person I was lucky to know, even if only for a short time.
Neal was a true lover of music, and had far-reaching, eclectic taste. He hipped me to so many recordings that had somehow flown below my radar. In particular, he revered the British folk-guitar heroes of the late 60’s and early 70’s. People like Davy Graham, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, etc. and turned me on to so much of their music. He also introduced me to a lot of obscure guitarists from the hippiefolk scene that was happening back here in America at around the same time: Robbie Basho, Rick Deitrick, Richard Osborn, and John Hulburt, just to name a few. Neal bringing the music of these artists and so many others to my attention greatly inspired me in the creation and completion of about half of the songs on this album, and gave me an even stronger sense of direction as I continue to develop myself as a composer and solo guitarist.
That brings me to my final point, which is how incredibly grateful and honored I am to be releasing this album on Tompkins Square. A label that is not only home to excellent releases by several of the aforementioned guitarists (and dozens of others) but more importantly, one that Neal loved and admired. Specifically, he referred to it more than once as being “the perfect label” to release an album such as this.
All of that being said, please enjoy the music. This album is my love letter and humble contribution to the world of guitar music and all of the beauty to be found therein. It’s meant to be enjoyed by guitarists and listeners alike, and I hope it will enrich whatever experience it accompanies. The guitar is indeed a “little orchestra”, and a world In & Of itself.
John Lee Shannon
New York City
A portion of the proceeds from this album will benefit the Neal Casal Music Foundation