Essential New Music: Lloyd Thayer & Jerome Deupree’s “Duets”

Sometimes you just have to narrow your options a bit to get things done. Cambridge, Mass., multi-instrumentalist Lloyd Thayer has mastered pretty much anything with strings on it. And if you want to learn how to play the harmonica, he can teach you that, too. Fellow Bostonian Jerome Deupree is a founding member of Morphine and has accompanied both John Mellencamp and Joe Morris. The possibilities are endless. But with Thayer’s decision to stick to just two members of the guitar family, and the duo’s conclusion that the music would be improvised, things snap into clear focus on Duets.

Thayer plays a Weissenborn lap-steel guitar and a Chaturangui, a 24-stringed instrument devised by Indian guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya. Both are designed to optimize fluid, open-ended slide playing, and Thayer uses them to materialize an expansive territory in the previously imaginary zone where the Ganges and Mississippi deltas come together.

Deupree makes no attempt to go folkloric; instead, he supplies subtle, brushes-on-skins coloration and swinging cadences that are paced just right to soundtrack that long walk along the levee that keeps those rivers in your dreams. If you’re getting the idea that this music is simultaneously immediate and mystical, you’re getting the idea. 

—Bill Meyer