William Tyler is, maybe, the best young fingerpicker left since Jack Rose died, effortlessly balancing the feathery complexities of blur -peed picking with the trapdoor-to-the-eternal mysticism of thrumming sustained drones. Impossible Truth is his second solo album and, like the first, hardly a solo album at all. For one thing, he’s locked in an endless dialogue with himself, overlaying various kinds of guitars in a fluttering, multi-toned conversation, so that even the barest, least orchestrated tracks take on a variegated shimmer. For another, he’s enlisted Nashville veterans to fill out half the cuts, pulling in fellow Lambchop-ers like Luke Schneider and Scott Martin in for pedal steel and drums, recruiting trombone-man-about-town Roy Agee and Chris (yes, grandson of Earl) Scruggs on acoustic bass and lap steel.
Yet Tyler is capable of finding infinite permutations in a single electric guitar’s sounds, as he proves on “The Geography of Nowhere,” the album’s most haunted and lovely track. Here Tyler starts in a bent, smouldery blues mode, his guitar tones wreathed in reverb and wavering like candle flames in an imperceptible breeze. Then the while the player and instrument remain constant, the song changes completely, the guitar now turned to a bucolic, gamboling country folk sound. Before you might have pictured drifts of smoke, neon reflected in rain, late night tables ringed with whiskey glasses, and now you’re thinking bunnies and baby lambs. It’s abrupt but somehow wholly natural when the song shifts again, back to the eerie blues glow, like sticking a landing in some sort of guitar gymnastics meet. And, in fact, most of these songs have multiple movements, distinct changes in style and mood that demonstrate how easily Tyler moves between blues, folk, jazz, baroque classical and psychedelic modes.
Tyler finds a static serenity amidst the most difficult flourishes, grounding his translucent figures in the deep hum and friction of held notes. Listening to “Country of Illusion,” you feel like you are watching a waterfall, the ceaseless flashing, glinting movement co-existing with a larger stillness. And indeed, many of his pieces have the feel of liquid fluidity, starting out with the playful lightness of a mountain stream, broadening and settling as they proceed and picking up a silty density in multiple guitars, brass and other instruments. I love the way that the long closer “The World Set Free” builds without losing its limberness, its mournful trombone notes underlining the chords that found the sound without inhibiting the lithe, blossoming guitar figures that dance over it.
Impossible Truth has no vocals, unless you could some muffled speech at the end of “World Set Free” and yet it has an unmistakable voice. You get the sense that Tyler sees the dizzying profusion of detail in the world around him, yet also sees through it to a spiritual core. Impossible Truth feels like both an empirical observation and an epiphany, a glimpse of the glow behind the world itself.
DOWNLOAD: “The Geography of Nowhere” “World Set Free” “Cadillac Desert”