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Myles Boisen 

Past-Present-Future

Wednesday, Apr 28 2004
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The blues is more than a folk-music form derived from the post-slavery African-American experience. It's the deep-feeling essence of the human spirit longing to be free. Of course, Myles Boisen knows a bit about freedom, having made a name for himself as one of the Bay Area's top do-it-yourself improvisers, experimental guitarists, and hands-on digital-recording engineers. But his latest album, Past-Present-Future, also shows him to be a legitimate bluesman with considerable knowledge of the genre's rich legacy and a knack for making its sound his own.

Performing on acoustic and electric six-strings, Boisen leads a variety of small combos (quartets, trios, and duos) through a dynamic set of mostly original tunes that taps a number of classic themes. "Highway Duo" and "Highway Trio" evoke the open-road aesthetic shared by both blues players and avant-gardists. "Train," with its mimetic whistle-blowing and forward-chugging rhythms, points toward the limitless possibilities of moving on and not looking back. The ugly-beautiful convulsive groove on "Devil Blues" -- a threesome featuring drummer Gino Robair, guitarist John Schott, and bassist Tarik Ragab (Boisen takes care of the "sonics") -- illustrates the creative upside of relinquishing one's soul at the crossroads.

A couple of direct homages -- "Muddy," a loping melodic hip-swinger; and "Mississippi Fred," a plaintive but hopeful slide-guitar moan -- pay their respects to the legendary Muddy Waters and Mississippi Fred McDowell. The entire disc is "Dedicated to the memory of John Lee Hooker," a consummate blues hero who hobo'd far from his birthplace in the Delta, gigging all over the world, and ended his days in the Bay Area, where Boisen carries on the tradition by reverently going his own way.

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Sam Prestianni

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