Birds is the first collection of solo instrumental compositions
by Dobro virtuoso lloyd Thayer. The album features 17 acoustic
soundscapes all played on lapstyle guitar, meaning, the guitar is
played flat in the lap and fretted with a metal bar. Thayer’s playing
is rooted in the tradition of John Fahey, Robbie Basho, and other
Takoma artists, but also contains deep echoes of an older, outsider
group of players from the 1920s like Sylvester Weaver and Frank
From the regal beauty of songs like “Great Blue Heron” or
“War Never Ends” to the haunting, mysterious richness of “February Grebe”
and “24 Hours,” lloyd’s playing covers a wide range of emotions and
moods. “Riding the Rails” and “Lost Oystercatcher” feature some
beautiful work on the Weissenborn guitar, which is just one of a
variety of guitars used on the CD, including a 1929 National
Squareneck Tricone, a Dobro made of fiberglass, and a 12 string
acoustic guitar specially modified to be played lap style.
Perhaps the high point of the album is the eighth song, “Hijaz Mojo.”
At just over 8 minutes long, this piece is an improvisation on National Steel
Guitar in the ancient Middle Eastern Maquam or scale called “Hijaz,” which is
popular throughout the Arab world. lloyd’s study of Middle Eastern and classical Indian musics shines through on this piece, which crosses the line between cultures with graceful fluidity.
The CD also features some agressive right-hand picking work on the 12
string on songs like “Mississippi Ripposaurus” and “Charles River Rag." Finally, Birds comes to a close with the powerful and expressive “UnitedStatesofAmnesia,” a one-take, one-time improvisation that perfectly sums up Thayer’s mastery of his chosen instrument.
Honed during endless hours on subway platforms in his native Boston,
Thayer’s playing reaches new heights on this CD, and pushes the
boundaries of what can be done on a Dobro. In fact, many of the
songs on this CD grew out of improvisations played while waiting for
the next group of subway commuters to arrive. A beautiful work from start to finish, Birds is played from the heart and soul by a master artist, with intensity and emotion, and is for lovers of acoustic music everywhere.