Steve Tibbetts: Hellbound Train – An Anthology

Retrospective of the guitarist's work suggests he might be best when he sets aside the loops, multi-tracking and technology


Guitarist Steve Tibbetts has recorded the majority of his relatively small output for ECM and Hellbound Train is a collection of tracks taken from such albums as Big Man Idea, A Man About A Horse and The Fall Of Us All.

There are also a couple of tracks from his debut album for that label, Northern Song, recorded in quick time by Manfred Eicher, leading to condemnation from the critics. Subsequently, he would spend much time over the preparation of his work before release.

The vast majority of the compositions were penned by Tibbetts and find him in total harmony with his long-time collaborator Marc Anderson. Inevitably the duo dominate all on offer, the other contributors being a sideshow to the main men.

Tibbetts uses a lot of distortion on his various guitars (electric and acoustic), adding light and shade as the spirit takes him, attempting to create a series of moods along the way, all driven along by Anderson’s percussion. The latter’s support varies from the exciting to slightly tedious, with apposite being the best description for the total length of the discs. Tempos vary throughout but the duo never falter in their constancy.

To these admittedly jaded ears, the guitarist is at his best when taking subtler turns rather than concentrating on the loops, multi-tracking and technology that pervade his work – the second CD is proof of that.

CD1: (1) Full Moon Dogs; (2) Chandoha; Lochana; Black Temple; (3) Burning Temple; (2) Glass Everywhere; (4) Roam And Spy; (5) Hellbound Train; (6) Nyemma; (7) Your Cat; Vision (63.11)
CD2: (8) Chandogra; Climbing; Black Mountain Side; Start; 100 Moons (excerpt); Mile 234 (excerpt); Wish; Ishvaravana; Bloodwork; Life Of Someone; Life Of Emily; The Big Wind; Aerial View; Night Again; My Last Chance; End Again; Threnody (62.59)

(1) Tibbetts (g, kalimba, pc); Marc Anderson (cga, pc, gongs); Jim Anton (b); Eric Anderson (b); Claudia Schmidt (v); Rhea Valentine (v). 1990s. (2) as (1) but omit Eric Anderson, Schmidt, Valentine.  (3) as (2) but Tibbetts and Anderson only. (4) as (3) but add Mike Olson (syn). (5) as (3) but add Eric Anderson (b) and Marcus Wise (tab). (6) as (1) but omit Valentine. (7) as (5) bot omit Eric Anderson and add Bob Hughes (b). 1980s. (8) Steve Tibbetts (g, dobro, p, kalimba); Marc Anderson (cga, pc, stp, gongs, handpan) and others. 1981-2017.
ECM Records 4557480