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Loren Connors

Night Through: Singles and Collected Works, 1976-200 (Family Vineyard)

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Bluesman is such a loaded term, it hardly needs explaining; its traditionally rigid definition invokes the vivid American caricature of a black man, guitar in hand, bellowing into endless night. If one musician has truly exploded the parameters of the blues, it is Loren MazzaCane Connors.

In fact, his version of the blues compacts the inherent spiritual feeling in drawn-out phrases, akin to the way Jimi Hendrix -- one of his idols -- held notes until they sang themselves. Connors grew up as an Irish-American artist, living sparsely by his guitar while painting. He claims, in the liners compiled by notable historian and folklorist William Ferris, that Mark Rothko is his "biggest influence in all arts"; the brush-stroke physicality of Connors' guitar work bears out the comparison, like Rothko's simple primary-color exercises extended for emotional impact.

The breadth of this three-disc collection of singles and unreleased cuts lends insight into Connors' evolution, from early, derivative reworkings of Robert Johnson to the guitar-tone explorations that later defined his work. According to Jim O'Rourke, Connors isn't trying to be avant-garde; he just loves traditional blues and happens to express it differently.

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