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Scott Tuma



Scott Tuma used to play with Chicago modern country-rock stalwarts Souled American, so he knows a thing or two about channeling the elemental colors and textures of American life into music. As a solo artist, Tuma opts to abstract this process, yielding warm, glowing, guitar-based ambient music connected by a few gossamer threads to the many living and dead ghosts of the American folk tradition. His gently droning, hypnotic instrumentalism bears something more than a passing resemblance to that of the Dirty Three (an inevitable comparison, especially since Dirty Three drummer Jim White contributed the haunting percussion parts to Tuma's first album), but this is subtler, more introspective music, more focused on the subconscious. At times, the murmuring weave of guitars, organs, faint percussion, and fainter-still ambient sounds almost feel like a secret history of America: the echoes and reverberations of Sunday morning gospel songs in Mississippi and Sunday afternoon back porch banjo workouts in the heart of Appalachia, spreading through empty rooms and halls in which the floors creak and the clatter of people preparing meals nearby can just barely be heard; spreading across the decades and rooting themselves in our modern consciousnesses, infecting us with a sense of inarticulate nostalgia and loss.

Tuma's sad, lovely dream of a debut album is titled Hard Again. On it, he gets help not just from White, but also guitarist Michael Krassner (Boxhead Ensemble, The Lofty Pillars), orgainst Joe Ferguson, and cellist Sarah Boone. Hard Again appeared on Truckstop in 2001. Tuma's solo work is truly stunning in its delicacy, its grace, and its depth. Unequivocally recommended.