the story goes: mary hart, back in the day in conneticut, collapses, passes out, and on presumption of being deceased, is buried by her husband. mary’s sister dreams of her being buried alive. the body is exhumed and there lies mary, her hands torn to shreds trying to claw through the coffin, an expression of exquisite terror etched forever on her face…
the inscription on her tombstone reads:
the people shall be troubled at midnight and pass away.
fast forward to 1981: a man, a guitar, a tape recorder. evergreen cemetery. the resting place of mary hart. midnight. as the legend warns, stay past twelve and you’ll be dead the next day. thankfully mr connors stayed, played, recorded and survived to tell the tale.
fast forward to now: the tape has been found, dormant, forgotten and foosty for years, somewhere, but now free and rattling it’s chains.
mixing up some blues seance, some graveyard acoustic field recording, some gospel abstractions (chants three and six spin out variants on amazing grace, unfurling a brittle spiritual vibe among the angular fingering) into one groaning spectre of a record. all it is, reduced, essentially, is thirty one minutes of improvised delta sketches. all it is, is so much more than that.
guitar wise there’s the aforementioned delta blues thing going on. or his buggered bottleneck primitivist version of it, like some avant savant blind willie johnson. somewhere chronologically and stylistically between his acoustic improv series and the folkier sounds made with suzanne langille and kath bloom. chant eight works around mississippi fred mcdowell / rev. gary davis’ you gotta move.
bringing it all together, effortlessly melding the traditional to the far-out, without losing sight of either, it’s as much about the performance as it is about the style and technique. as much a construction from stories, historys and myths as it is from the strings and wood and voice that create it.
vocally, the moans and groans and hums and haws and grunts (glenn gould meets charlie patton?), while abstract (never distract), offer melody and rhythm beneath the simple guitar mangling. the wordless incantations add an witchy edge to an already creepy ambiance.
maybe there’s a tiny satirical edge to this, an amused wheeze, or at least a cheeky pinch of the nose, a cock of the snook at the old blues mythos. mostly with reference to the spooky gothic devilish robert johnson side of the blooze. or maybe it’s entirely reverential. either way it’s cracking crackling record.