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Coward by Nels Cline

Nels Cline is certainly one of the more versatile guitar heroes on the planet. He performs with the rock band Wilco while recording his genre-busting jazz-rock unit, The Nels Cline Singers for this record label. And he's aligned with many others over the years. But this album marks the artist's inaugural solo album. It's a marvel of ingenuity amid a multifarious program, teeming with mood-eliciting acoustic-electric mosaics.

With an arsenal of guitars, effects mechanisms and other implements, Cline injects a broad panorama of thematic forays into the grand scheme, consisting of reversed loops, circular guitar chord progressions, background treatments and multihued textures. But on "Prayer Wheel," his gentle steel-stringed guitar patterns, shaded with soft harmonics and walking motifs segue to other pieces where he ravages his electric ax with hard-strumming rock guitar chords and blistering single note lines. Naturally, Cline overdubs here, yet it's all exquisitely enacted, focused and not over-baked.

The guitarist communicates a divergent mix, although the sum of the parts are uncannily cohesive. He even renders avant, Americana and folk-jazz on various pieces via his ringing extended notes and meticulous phrasings. Then on "The Nomad's Home, Cline conjures up the Delta blues with his down home slide guitar work. He also injects a freaky psychedelic vibe into his multi-part "Onan" suite while using a drum machine to provide a fast-paced pulse in support of his wailing e-guitar licks and off-kilter theme-building maneuvers.

Simply stated, Cline reinforces his Renaissance man musical persona throughout this persuasive endeavor. It all reaffirms his ability to transcend the norm, while embedding the familiar roads well-traveled into his signature voice. More importantly, the guitarist conveys the ability to morph far-reaching concepts with unusual treatments and his enviable technical gifts into an absorbing and highly-listenable sequence of musical events.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Nels Cline
  • CD Title: Coward
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Cryptogramophone
  • Musicians: Nels Cline (electric and acoustic 6- and 12-string guitars (steel string and otherwise, prepared and otherwise), Srvti boxes, loops, banjo uke, tenor ukulele, zither, fretless cigar box guitar, Turkish 12-string; dobro, 6-string bass, megamouth, electric autoharp, Quintronics drum buddy, Kaossilator effects)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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