Published May 13, 2019Fans of Daniel Lanois will be familiar with the Canadian producer's love of pedal steel guitar. "My little church in a suitcase," as he describes it, was centre stage on the 2005 instrumental album, Belladonna.
The disc had great significance for Lanois; it marked a return to the kind of ambient music he'd released in the '80s with Brian Eno, before the two became a world-famous production team. Lanois's application of pedal steel guitar to the genre was genuinely innovative. Belladonna wasn't simply an understated instrumental album; it showcased the instrument's power in an entirely new context.
Thirteen years later, Durham, NC's M. Grig (Michael Grigoni, who comes from the Pacific Northwest originally) has produced a stunning followup. Featuring voice, field recordings and dobro as well as lap steel, pedal steel and acoustic guitar, Mount Carmel is arguably the better of the two albums.
The title comes from a church (there's that word again) near where Grigoni spent his childhood. "I used to think of that entire landscape — the neighbourhood, the church, the hills — as Mount Carmel," he says in the album's notes. "In my mind, I lived at the base of Mount Carmel."
There's more going on here than warm-hearted nostalgia. Grig applies a layering technique that sets acoustic and electric sounds against one another while maintaining a distinctly ambient, even sensuous vibe. Credit Taylor Deupree with another exceptional mastering credit.
The music is relaxing, even when it is surprisingly complex. It is that contrast — between an easy and difficult listen — that makes this fourth album from M. Grig so deeply satisfying. (12K)