Gitkin’s music exists somewhere between primal, rootsy memory and distant exotic yearning — A dusty bordertown where the familiar blends imperceptibly into the enchantingly foreign.
After a long and fruitful run as a bandleader with relentlessly touring party-rockers Pimps Of Joytime and a Grammy-nominated country blues collaboration with Cedric Burnside, multi-instrumentalist Brian J set out to “explore tonalities I’d never messed with,” as he puts it. It was a release from “having to write lyrics or involve my voice,” he notes, and so the (mostly) instrumental sound of Gitkin came into being.
Reviews of Gitkin’s first LP grappled with descriptors, tagging it vaguely as “cinematic” and comparing it favorably with Khruangbin. True, the music is largely wordless, emotionally evocative, and guitar driven. But it possesses an alluring alchemy all its own.
Gitkin’s first release, 2018’s well-received Five Star Motel, amply demonstrated his ease with earthy funk and comfortably-cut rhythm. On his new full-length release Safe Passage, the itinerant guitar slinger broadens his already rich palette with melodies informed by Greek and Middle Eastern modalities, Peruvian Chicha and Tuareg Saharan guitar styles. No gimmick, this juxtaposition of gut-bucket blues and funk low-end with unexpectedly twisting lead phrases highlights the intense flavors found in each savory ingredient.
Recorded at his home studio in New Orleans, Safe Passage showcases a new batch of immediately engaging, repeatedly satisfying cuts, ranging from surf exotica (“Cat Nip”) to raunchy roadhouse stompers (“Fools Gold” and “The Drive”) to dreamy vocal cuts “Foot Steps” and “Hold On” to the floating finale of “Safe Passage.”
Gitkin’s production radiates character and warmth, leaning on soft-focus vintage mics, dubby spring reverbs and the quirks of an analog tape machine. Further enhancing the intimate vibe are distinguished guests like Carol C (of Si*Sé), who lends her striking voice to three tracks, including the strutting single “De La,” veteran Chauncey Yearwood (congas) and New Orleans local Clifton “Spug” Smith, who provides a sousaphone low-end on the cumbia-not-cumbia “Spug Life.”
Safe Passage will be released by Wonderwheel on September 18th, 2020 and will be available on vinyl, CD and digitally.