Portland guitarist Ryan Francesconi has become a trusted collaborator of Joanna Newsom, who headlines the Chicago Theatre tomorrow evening. Over the years he’s not only played on her recordings but also contributed arrangements to them. When she performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he served as conductor. On her current tour he’s part of her modest four-piece band, where he’ll be juggling guitar, banjo, and a couple of Balkan instruments (the end-blown flute called the kaval and the lute known as the tambura). He’s even doing double duty, accompanying sublime Portland singer Alela Diane for her opening set.
Earlier this year Francesconi and Diane released a lovely, meditative collaboration called Cold Moon (Rusted Blue). According to the press materials for the record, they ran into each other in a local club and got to talking about their professional troubles—both felt blocked artistically and unsure where to go next. The following day, Francesconi called Diane and proposed a collaboration. Their work together has brought out new qualities in each of them. The guitarist has hit upon a refreshing simplicity, while the singer excels within sparser arrangements that allow her to craft gorgeous overdubbed vocal harmonies with herself. Their serene, gentle recording unfolds patiently and luxuriates within its own air of calm contemplation. Below you can hear one of the album’s most beautiful tunes, “The Sun Today,” which is today’s 12 O’Clock Track.
Gerry Hemingway Quintet, Riptide (Clean Feed)
Camerata Pacifica, John Harbison: Chamber Works (Harmonia Mundi)
The Jam, All Mod Cons (Polydor)
Various artists, Eccentric Soul: The Dynamic Label (Numero Group)
Yarn/Wire, David Brynjar Franzson: The Negotiation of Context (Wergo)