In today’s political climate, it is hard to imagine how the conservative south and Mexico could join in beautiful, melodic harmony, but Bard gives us this vision. He finds the bridge where these two cultures can meet, in a diverse and musically rich album.
The journey begins in Tennessee, where Bard was raised. Returning home to the south for three years, he digs deep into the music that influenced him there, Appalachian Mountain music (Rendezvous Duel, Southern Belle) and Delta Blues (Spread my Wings, Riverside Blues and Mississippi Flows). He takes those influences to Mexico where he lived with his family for a year, playing music with is wife to earn a living. The culture of Mexico, from stories of the simple farming lifestyle of the Mezcaleros to the exuberant emotions of Mariachi horns, soak into “Gold and Black Mare” and “Take Three Breaths”, while “Mango Tree” simply rejoices in Mexico’s succulent tropical climate.
“Take Three Breaths” carries the listener on a journey south down the Camino Real. Bard leaves Santa Fe to move his family to a small fishing village in the state of Nayarit. The travelers dive across the border to get sideswiped in Sonora, pay bribes in Mazatlan, and pass a 40’ tall Virgin Mary in Sinaloa.
The anchor of the album, Espadín, takes place deep in the heart of Oaxaca. There, you can smell the smoke from the wild agave piñas as they cook in the ground. The traditional transformation of wild agave into distilled mezcal is told in the title song “Espadín”. Follow the mezcalero to his hidden spot “where the espadín grow wild for twenty years or more”. The anchor of the album is found in this song when Karina Wilson’s solo quartet emerges “like sweet water from under the mountain”. Boris McCutcheon’s coaxing of melodies out of the mandolin takes the listener deep into the arroyo.
Bard returns to New Mexico, his heart home, to tell the stories of other travelers who tried to bridge the worlds of “back home” and the new frontier in “Painted Pony”, “Gold and Black Mare”, and “Rendezvous Duel”. In “Rendezvous Duel” the narrator, Kit Carson, comes back to visit his wife and sits down to tell her all his stories and then asks to hear hers.
“Maidenhair” comes out from deep in Slickhorn canyon along the San Juan river in Utah, where canyon wrens sing the song of falling rocks and maidenhair ferns' green, silky leaves spill out of cracks in the earth.
This is the life once explored by pioneering people of the 19th century, deep, slow travel where worlds met and cultures integrated. Bard keeps this pioneering spirit alive and documents it in sound. In Espadín, we travel to new lands and experience new possibilities through the eyes and inspiration of this sincere and enormously creative artist.