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Fernwood, USA

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Fernwood - Almeria. 2008 private
Fernwood - Sangita. 2009 private
Fernwood - Arcadia. 2015 private. Also avail on LP.

Interesting story on how this album got into my possession in the first place. Gayle Ellett had reached out to see if I had a chance to hear the Arcadia CD he had sent. Umm... well... uh... What CD was that again? LOL. Turns out there is a print magazine called Under the Radar that they had sent a promo copy to. They're like all professional and stuff. Obviously not my Under the Radar, the textbook definition of Amateur Hour. After a few laughs, Gayle was kind enough to send me the CD anyway (and is housed in a very nice digi-pak). It's a little outside of our normal UTR fare, but I'm glad to say it's a very good album that I'm looking forward to soaking more with.

Fernwood are the California based duo of Todd Montgomery and Gayle Ellett, the latter most known to progressive fans as a member of Djam Karet. They each play a tremendous amount of (primarily stringed) instruments, including but not limited to, Greek and Irish bouzouki, sitar, banjo, dobro, mandolin, tenor ukelele, violin, and... Moog, Mellotron, organ, Rhodes, and electric guitar. Despite the presence of these latter instruments, the music is always calm and peaceful. In fact, I would like to use a term that Fernwood best represents. Unfortunately it has become somewhat of a pejorative, but shouldn't be regarded as such. And that term would be New Age.

35 years ago, the New Age movement had just begun and offered up a promising style of music that promoted music from around the world, generally in a tranquil, cosmic, and meditative manner. But it didn't take long for labels such as Windham Hill and Narada to turn the style into an almost Adult Contemporary pop music, perfect for bored rich housewives sipping sangria before their next yoga class.

Fernwood returns us to the original spirit of the genre, recalling pioneers such as Popol Vuh, but taking it to the next level. There are 11 tracks here, each as spellbinding as the next. Typically, I'm not fond of music such as this as I generally hear it, quite frankly, as dull. And yet I found myself transfixed and swept away by the blend of sounds created here. The production is stunning, and provides the crystal clear sound music like this needs to breathe. I see this as an album that is likely to grow in stature, and my initial rating is conservative (Gnosis 10 / RYM 3.5 which means Very Good and well worth owning)!

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