Rene Erickson’s Silent Street album is an eleven-song collection of guitar instrumentals. Erickson is a skilled guitarist and fills this half-hour-plus album with plenty of enjoyable acoustic guitar sounds.
The album’s title cut, which arrives five songs in, is a relatively quiet piece (as its title suggests). However, Erickson is anything but a quiet musician. Rather, Erickson’s instrumental skills speak volumes throughout. One called “Q&A,” which is a unique song title, features layered guitar lines interwoven within. Each is fingerpicked differently, and joined together to form what sounds a little like an acoustic guitar orchestra, following a line of acoustic guitar orchestration. Folk music is probably the best description for this selection of music, but calling it thus vastly undersells it. When one thinks about folk music, one oftentimes imagines music most regular folk (meaning non-professional musicians) can play. However, this music set is by no means simple to play. It is even more complicated to produce and record, as there are just so many different moving sonic parts.
Another track, this one titled “Firefly,” may remind you of the master guitarist (and also poet/songwriter) Bruce Cockburn. It is taken at a slow, thoughtful pace. It’s impossible not to also picture a shiny firefly fluttering around as Erickson performs this piece. Fireflies amaze young people (and most adults, if they’re honest) and these sounds bring lovely, luminescent visions to the mind’s eye as it plays.
Without the benefit of lyrics, it’s always a little difficult to imagine what various instrumental songs are about. For instance, the chiming “Every Nothing” has the sort of name the old Seinfeld show could have called every episode, as the series within the series was a show about nothing. The album closes with “Somewhere Warm,” which is introduced by the sounds of stormy weather. These sound effects are followed by contrastingly warming musical notes. As anyone who has had to remain in chilly temperatures for too long knows well, when you’re cold for an extended period of time, all you really want to find is something – anywhere – that’s warmer. This sweet melody can’t raise your body temperature, but then again, it can’t hurt, either.
The album’s artwork features images of rural life, so when Erickson plays the speedy and upbeat “Mended Fences,” the listener is left believing Erickson probably knows a thing or two about literal fence mending. Then again, it could just as easily be a metaphor for a repaired relationship. Whatever the case, the track nicely presents Erickson’s fast finger skills, as it skips along nicely.
Although this is an acoustic selection of songs, the album’s opener (“Jump Cut”) presents the sort of guitar chords that – in an amplified format – might also pass for rock & roll. It is one of the album’s most aggressively performed pieces. Once again, it showcases Erickson’s wide range of guitar skills. Erickson truly puts on an acoustic guitar clinic with this fully pleasing instrumental album.
When it comes to making rock & roll, many of our contemporary guitar heroes show little to no restraint. It’s all about cranking up the tunes, good and loud. However, Rene Erickson’s Silent Street proves that subtle restraint and attention to quiet detail can be just as impressive. It’s simply impossible to not be impressed with this release.