BELLA UNION records are thrilled to announce the release of Road To Palios today, an exquisite cycle of instrumental duets for acoustic guitar and violin by Portland-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Francesconi and his partner Mirabai Peart.
Fans of Joanna Newsom should already be familiar with the work of Francesconi. He was a member of her ‘Ys Street Band’, the principal arranger and instrumental foil on her hugely feted triple album Have One On Me, released in 2010, and musical director for that album’s live incarnation, which Peart was also part of. But as well as a master collaborator, Francesconi is a vastly experienced soloist, performing and recording in all manner of guises.
If Francesconi also doesn’t limit himself to one sound – he spans Baroque, Americana and jazz improvisation – he admits his (and Peart’s) main obsession is Balkan folk music, mainly from Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. “This colour seems to seep into everything I do. It’s not entirely conscious at this point… It’s my hands. It’s not me.”
The inspiration behind The Road To Palios was a trip that the couple made in 2010 to the Greek island of Lesvos. The road is a real road, and Palios is a real village – “it might not be there for much longer, but we found it” – and The Road To Palios feels like a journey, stretching out over time and distance. Some song titles show the way; “Pontic” is from the Greek “Pontus”, meaning, “sea”. “Kalamatianos” is a traditional Greek dance. “Far from Shore” and “Parallel Flights” speak for themselves.
As you would expect, Joanne Newsom is a fan, to put it mildly. Fransesconi, she says, is, “one of the most awe-inspiring musicians I’ve known. It’s nearly impossible to believe he’s picking those strings with one hand.”
Here we have seven questing tracks; sometimes meditative, other times stirring, but always flowing and compelling. Once embarked upon, it’s a unforgettable journey, into Balkan territory and the heart and soul of two extraordinary musicians. Click on the soundcloud link below to hear the album’s title track:
Road To Palios by Ryan Francesconi and Mirabai Peart is OUT TODAY on Bella Union records.