[guest post] 2011 in Review, Vol. 3 – Expwy

Recording as Expwy, Matt LeGroux dropped Dance Maul this past summer, a vintage-sounding homemade folk/rock album.  It took one listen for me to fall under its spell – ghostly organs, healthy doses of reverb, and some of the year’s most fluid guitar solos will do that.  Already finished with the follow up to Dance Maul (Total Gold, due in early 2012), LeGroux sent along this summary of his 2011.   

I started the year working on Dance Maul and trying to finish it up.  My wife and I had moved to a much smaller apartment and I was having some serious trouble getting things going.  I was also playing in my good friend Ian Jarvis’ band Chairs before it dissolved and Ian joined the Alberta band Ghostkeeper.  It’s really too bad about Chairs, the music was amazing, the band was great and people really liked us when they heard us.  Hopefully Ian will see fit to release that stuff someday, I was never in a band whose music I liked so much.

I spent a good chunk of 2011 obsessed with the music of Carlo Gesualdo, the Italian Renaissance madrigal composer, particularly his piece “Moro lasso al mio duolo.”  I even went so far as to try to learn it on guitar but threw in the towel when it became painfully apparent that I could not for the life of me approximate the sound of five voices running circles around each other.  It did allow me to really get into the piece and get a feel for Carlo’s centuries-ahead-of-its-time sense of harmony.  I also found that I was in good company; Igor Stravinsky and Aldous Huxley were also fans.  I grew to love Gesualdo’s music so much I even used the very first part of “Moro lasso…” at the beginning of “We Will Lift, We Will Drop” on the new Expwy album Total Gold. 

I had a few more obsessions last year, Merle Travis and Ariel Pink.  I discovered Ariel’s music in 2011 and it quickly became a favourite.  If I had to pick, I think Lover Boy would be at the top of my list.  I started toying with the idea of an album of Ariel’s music done instrumentally to highlight the songwriting but I never got farther than a mash-up of Fright Night and Round and Round played on acoustic guitars.  As a guitar player the figure of Merle Travis looms large.  He has an entire style of finger picking named after him, for pete’s sake.  I had known Merle’s music before but I got into it big-time last year.  Sixteen Tons, Dark as a Dungeon and Cannonball Rag are all classics but to hear him really play his ass off check out Walkin’ the Strings.  Back Home also made a great soundtrack to driving through Kentucky’s blue rolling hills, horse farms and coal country and visiting its bourbon distilleries.

I almost forgot about Choro, a Brazilian music based around the mandolin, guitar and cavaquinho.  I loved Jacob do Bandolim so much I actually went out and bought a mandolin, quickly discovered that it’s crazy-hard to play and that I would have to dedicate my life to it and decided the role of non-participating observer was best for me.  Throw in Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk and Charles Ives and you’ve got pretty much everything that’s been on my mp3 player in the past year.

The biggest news for me, though, was much more recent.  Dance Maul got written-up at Quick Before it Melts, this wonderful blog, and Pasta Primavera and people started listening to it.  I had signed up for the Charles Ives plan; make music in your spare time for your entire life and finally be recognized well into your 70s as some half-genius cranky obsessive madman.  But things are starting to pick up and with a child on the way it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

But I’m really excited for 2012, I think Total Gold is a much better record than Dance Maul, I’ve got a great and supportive wife, friends and family and am being given a forum for my music.  What more could a cranky obsessive madman ask for?

MP3  ::  Armory Hall

MP3  ::  Park Row

(from Dance Maul. Listen/Download here)

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