Iron & Wine
guitarist Patrick McKinney’s solo project, As Upon the Road Thereto is far more than simple Sam Beam redux. Given Iron & Wine’s unexpected rise from mere repository of Sam Beam’s homespun recordings to indie rock’s reigning kings of outsider folk, these 10 acoustic guitar instrumentals come as something of a departure, closer to John Fahey than Will Oldham. Largely impressionistic, each composition glides through multiple passages and tempo alterations, some decidedly pretty, others atonal, many with deconstructed shades of blues and ragtime. From the country-blues lilt of the serene “Chasleen, You Gotta Run to Catch That Train” to the more abstract cascade of notes in “Hobojangle,” the song structures are fairly amorphous, at times winding into each other without clear delineations between individual tracks. Still, McKinney’s fluid, lyrical playing isn’t a total departure from the spirit of Iron & Wine. These tracks channel the deep mystery and ruminative beauty of the blues, country and folk forms from which he draws. Best of all, McKinney’s playing suffers little from the academic. While it’s complex, he doesn’t emphasize technique over the substance of the song, something fans of both Doc Watson and Leo Kottke should be able to appreciate.