Darrin Kobetich’s The End of One Enchanted Evening
By Ken Shimamoto
Guitarist Darrin Kobetich grew up on Long Island, New York – same place I come from, as a matter of fact – and moved to Texas with his family around the same time I did (although he’s ten years younger). Listening to him tawwwk, you’d never think that he went to Weatherford High School; that accent could only come from Lawn Guyland. A virtuoso shredder, his roots are in the era of heavy metal in between the ‘60s Les Paul-and-Marshall brigade that pillaged and plundered the blooze and the ‘80s douchebags with big hair, spandex, and sticky tape on their guitars; he’s particularly fond of German axe-stranglers Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth, both of whom got their start in the Scorpions’ ‘70s lineups. In 1989, Darrin joined Hammer Witch, a heavy Nawlins-born trio that ruled the roost at Joe’s Garage and released the cassette-only Legacy of Pain before disintegrating in 1994. Next, he formed Amillion Pounds – thrash metal with a difference, incorporating a plethora of folk and improvisational influences -- with his brother Adam on vox and banjo. Their self-titled 1999 CD shows that even then, Darrin was all over the stylistic map, covering bases from psychedelia to funk to bluegrass to Middle Eastern music.
Amillion Pounds lasted from 1995 to 2004. Since then, Darrin’s divided his time between solo acoustic performances and bluegrass gigs with the Electric Mountain Rotten Apple Gang and the Blackland River Devils. Equally adept on 6- and 12-string axes, dobro and mandolin, Darrin’s acoustic work shows the influences of John Fahey’s “American primitive” guitar, the master’s acolyte Leo Kottke, slap-harmonics master Michael Hedges, and the folkie side of Jimmy Page, among numerous others. It’s a sound as evocative of the wide-open spaces Darrin loves as it is of inner space; Kobetich originals like “Cottonmouth” and “Playing in the Hedges” seem to flow from some deep reservoir of sorrow and spirituality. He’s contributed to Marcus Lawyer’s Top Secret…Shhh album, dueted with ex-El Salvador Birthday Bash percussionist Mike Padilla and Fort Worth Symphony violinist Steve Huber, and survived agreeable four-guitar pile-ups with musically diverse compadres Bill Pohl, Kavin Allenson, and Jimmy Joe Natoli. Recently, Darrin and Hammer Witch bassist-vocalist Wayne Abney regrouped under the rubric Sumassouls, proving that the guitarist’s metal chops are still intact.
With The End of One Enchanted Evening, the eclectic axe-slinger may have painted his masterpiece. The single, hour-long track was recorded at home on Darrin’s Martin D-28 12-string in the wee hours of March 2, 2008, at the end of a day of bike riding, music-making and listening, and star-gazing. There’s a book by jazzbo/Berklee instructor Mick Goodrick called The Advancing Guitarist that I used to borrow from Ron Geida when I got into playing slumps. A lot of it is theory that’s way over my head, but the parts I found useful were about the philosophy of guitar playing and the idea that if you’re involved in any form of creative endeavor, every activity you undertake can feed into it. Some Goodrick advice for overcoming the blahs in re: playing or music: “Feed a loaf (or two) of bread to some pigeons, ducks, sea gulls, or other types of birds….Go for a long walk. Cry.” And so on. Point being, there are all kinds of ways of tapping into the sources of creativity.
It sounds as though Darrin was tapped deep into those sources when he returned to his house at the end of that night and switched on the recorder. What came out was an organically flowing extended improvisation that meanders in the best possible way, leaving no tangent unexplored and no idea undeveloped. You’ll hear hints of raga and Near Eastern musics as well as bluegrass, Darrin’s restless, rolling Leo Kottke-like right hand, and a seemingly bottomless wellspring of rhythmic and melodic invention and variation. Follow this music’s circuitous path and you can find yourself getting lost in its myriad twists and turns, only to emerge amazed at the passage of time at the end of the journey.