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On Saturday, we lost a giant. Big in stature, personality, and musical talent, JACK ROSE was an anomaly, a pioneer in digging up prior musical fossils and reshaping them into new soundforms. Don’t lay the ‘American primitive’ tag on his style; there was nothing primitive at all about the sublime beauty and endless worlds of drones, harmonics and melodies he would wring out of his guitar. The last six or so years of his solo career didn’t match up sound-wise with the noisy drones and skeletal half-dreams of the work he did as one-third of PELT but that sense of adventure was rooted squarely in whatever he took on.
Though I was Pelt fan from way back when, I never did see them play live, and I never met Jack until 2006, when he played on a bill with GLENN JONES in Boston. That night changed my thinking towards what an acoustic guitar was capable of…I only saw JOHN FAHEY in the twilight of his career (after BYRON COLEY singlehandedly resurrected interest in John via a feature story in Spin Magazine), when he had cast his earlier works aside and pitched headlong in musique concrète. After seeing Glenn and Jack effortlessly weave an amazing web of notes and tones which had real character, impact and gravitas, I suddenly knew what the early ’60s audiences of Fahey had unfold into their very ears.
Living near Boston, I was fortunate enough to see Jack a few times since then, and as Glenn and he were inseparably tight, even if Glenn wasn’t on that particular bill one could count on Jack motioning Glenn onto stage for a backslapping version of “Linden Avenue Stomp,” one of the songs that they both recorded and just loved to play. Especially together.
Jack was the sort of musician who made the difficult look so easy…if you’ve ever seen him play “Cross The North Fork” or “Red Horse” you know how it was so easy to get transfixed in the music and lose track of time, even of being, as the minutes melted away and you were lost inside a beautiful world. Jack made that transport so easy, and watching him play, you could tell he was in a similar place.
Though I can’t say I knew Jack well, the half-dozen or so times I saw him and chatted with him before and after shows displayed a great generosity of spirit, a zest for life, and an intense of love of what he did. The news of his passing hit hard, really hard. The world has lost a great talent, and a great man. Jack, thanks for the music.
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