Essential New Music: Mariano Rodriguez’s “Exodo”

Mariano Rodriguez is a far-southern representative of the Takoma school of acoustic-guitar playing. Based in Bariloche, Argentina, he’s been recording original tunes rooted in the same country-blues loam as John Fahey since sometime in the aughts. Alternating between a six-string acoustic and Weissenborn lap-steel instruments, Rodriguez displays an easy command of their emotive and evocative potentialities. His playing is replete with swooping slides, woozy dissonances and fingerpicked melodies that might wander a ways, but they always end up right where they’re supposed to go. 

As you might suppose given the album’s title, Rodriguez’s music seeks to take the listener on a trip. The journey is both literal and metaphorical. The images of a camper on Exodo’s sleeve and highways in the booklet stashed inside of it correspond to the purposeful motion and rising spirits conveyed by the title track. Other photos of cemeteries, however, acknowledge the inevitable human destination of mortality. But where Fahey often seemed drawn to death, either in jest or in blackhearted discontent, Rodriguez appears to have taken its inevitability as an impetus to figure out what matters. The winding “Lazaro” may take the listener around some dark corners, but it doesn’t get stuck in them. Layers of dreamy, reverberant strings offer a comforting embrace on “The River And The Blind,” and the hymn-like “Mother Of The Road” tells you where that comfort comes from. For Rodriguez, the journey is a way to get reacquainted with mystery and renew hope. [Leña]

—Bill Meyer