William Tyler is a guitar player from Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to playing with Lambchop and Silver Jews, he has released critically acclaimed albums of his own beautiful music. I had the good fortune to discover him playing live in June of 2012 when I was still living there. It was out on the back lot of local denim shop, Imogene + Willie. They used to have sweet backyard parties then before neighbors put a crack down on the noise. It was never really very loud or late, but that’s the way it goes with progress, I suppose.
For music with no words, it is impressive how much emotion there is in his expression. He has described his music as “equal parts Appalachian drone and ambient noise” and I tend to agree.
An easy comparison for the uninitiated would be John Fahey, another instrumental guitarist from an earlier generation who's fingerpicking style of playing used altered tunings and classic subject matter to create something unique and yet undeniably American -- in much the same way that the 20th century composer, Aaron Copland, created a sound that we now recognize as that of the American Prairie. Tyler’s music also conjures up vivid images of the vast American landscape and pioneer spirit. The rise and fall on songs like the eight minute “Country of Illusion," the opener to his 2013 album “Impossible Truth,” illustrates this well.
I would encourage you to listen to the latest episode of his podcast posted just today, It’s All True, on Soundcloud. This episode on the subject of context opens with him playing The Langley Schools Music Project's version of “Desperado” by the Eagles, a band he doesn’t care for, and explaining that it took hearing the song in this different context for him to appreciate it.
He goes on to say, “In our age, because we are so submerged in a deluge of information, constantly -- now, more than ever, irony has punctuated almost everything and there are just so many parameters that are necessary to talk about art or listen to music, to see a film or appreciate a piece of visual art, for instance… Content has been trumped by context, and it's almost more important the way you think or perceive something to be than the actual matter contained.” He then goes on to play a recording of James Joyce reading Finnegans Wake and explains that Joyce meant it to be read aloud as another example of context. This is clearly a man who knows plenty and cares much for the art and music he is surrounded by.
Whether unadorned on record, solo live, or with any number of overdubs or musicians accompanying him, there is a pastoral, droning quality throughout his composition that I find particularly comforting, and certainly appealing. I look forward to hearing his sonorous tones wafting over hills of Sonoma on that sunny day at Huichica this coming June.