Describing guitarist and producer Cameron Mizell (b. 1980) as a thoughtful player hardly begins to do his work justice. Fluent in a variety of genres, from jazz to rock, bluegrass and funk, he always seems to resist any temptation to overplay.
When I reviewed his 2016 set Negative Spaces I detected a special affinity for the broad spectrum of Americana. Echoes of Frisell, Scofield and Metheny brushed against a fresh and uncluttered approach to composition, each piece deliberately weighted and stripped of all superfluity.
Local Folklore is Mizell’s second duo with acclaimed folk and roots guitarist Charlie Rauh, and it further teases out that golden thread of Americana. While the sonic palette is very different to the edgy urban jazz of Negative Spaces, this music shares the same clarity of purpose. Save for Mizell’s sparing use of atmospheric reverb and delay it is entirely acoustic, the pervading air that of a relaxed, intimate parlour recital.
As the album opens with Mizell’s bright title track the listener is instantly placed within an imaginary landscape full of tall skies and expanses of swaying wheat. Mizell’s widescreen soundscapes are generally quite different in character to Rauh’s sepia-toned vignettes, a contrast that becomes clear as early as the second track, Petey & Kyle. One of four pieces inspired by the Virginian scenes and characters from an as yet unfinished novel by his sister Christina Rauh Fishburne, the pieces deal with heavier themes of trauma and loss, and offer a welcome sense of chiaroscuro.
Elsewhere the languid downhome charms of Old Sardis Road are as warm as they’re sincere. Acoustic and electric guitars chime in perfect unison on Mizell’s Metheny-esque ballad On Sundays I Walk Alone, and it’s by some distance the most hummable piece of the set. A Forgiving Sort Of Place is the shortest and most wistful of Rauh’s four vignettes, while Arolen, inspired by his childhood summers in rural Alabama, carries an inescapable sense of yearning for times past.
A charming set which is as likely to appeal to scholars of Americana as to the jazz cognoscenti, Local Folklore draws considerable strength from the artists’ close rapport and unshakeable commitment to understated virtuosity.
Local Folklore; Petey & Kyle; Old Sardis Road; Jed’s Theme; A Forgiving Sort Of Place; Rita’s Theme; Greenwood Waltz; Arolen; A Single Cloth; On Sundays I Walk Alone (48.00)
Mizell (elg, g); Rauh (g). Brooklyn, NY, November 2020 to July 2021.
Destiny Records DR-0040