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February 14th, 2010

On Going to a Jack Rose Show

In December 2007, I got the opportunity to see Jack Rose perform for the first time. He was going to be playing a free show with Donald Miller at the Live Oak Friends Meeting House in Houston at 5:15 PM. The time was picked so that the show would coincide with the sunset. It was a mild day. I would even say it was comfortably warm.
I spent the day at home and out back, and as the afternoon rolled around a couple of friends of mine came over and we drove out to the show. After a while we arrive at the place: a Quaker meeting house, a church. We walked around outside, talking to one another, took a look inside, bought a few of Jack’s records. He had just released his self-titled album of slide guitar. We eventually took a seat in the church pews as more people started to show up. 
I think Donald Miller played first, and he put on an amazing show. He set up multiple ebows (electric bows) on multiple guitars and proceeded to place circular rings on different surfaces of the guitar bodies, finely adjusting them, as layers of deeply resonating harmonies and chord emerged. The likes of which I had never heard before. This went on for time untold until he picked up one of the guitars and started playing it with his fingers. At some point he finished his set and everyone applauded.
We milled about during the in-between, stepping outside into the warm evening, talking together quietly, smiling, and returning to our seats.
 Now, before I continue, I feel that I should mention a few things about Jack Rose’s guitar playing. 

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Cathedral Et Chartres (Live 11/13/04)” from I Do Play Rock And Roll

He is very clean. Always. In fact, he is as clean live as he is on any recording. Also, his playing is very expressive, and in this respect he is rivaled by few, if any, other solo guitar players. Lastly, when one listens to solo guitar being played live (rather than in a recording), there is so much more to be heard within every chord, within every single note. The harmonics ring in a million shining pieces. Unbounded. Impossible to explain.
So, Jack Rose begins his set. His guitar playing fills the room. I think he was mic’d, but he probably didn’t need to be, so loud and clear is his playing. My eyes close, and I begin to feel a powerfully transcendent feeling.
 A feeling of the universal and the individual. Visions of homelands, and pasts.
This went on for a long time and it felt really good. Eventually, with my eyes still closed, my head tilted upwards, and my face in what could only have been an expression of complete transcendental joy, I recall (to my complete surprise) that I am in the room and that I am listening to Jack Rose. And so, I opened my eyes. Jack is there in the middle of the room playing the guitar, and all around in the church pews are people with their eyes closed, heads tilted back, expressions of transcendental joy on their faces.
 I close my eyes.
My friend later told me that he cried. He said that he didn’t know something like that existed. An interesting sentiment considering he already had Jack’s records and liked them.
It’s very fitting that the show was held in a church. It was a religious experience. An ecstasy. Jack Rose’s guitar playing could do that to a room full of people.
 At some point near the end of the set Jack went into “Dark Was the Night”. Wow. What a… a thing. It was beyond song. It was the song of songs.

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Dark Was The Night” from Jack Rose (2007)  
 And so… that was a lot of fun.

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Teoc” from Dr. Ragtime (2002)
Jack’s last record, Luck in the Valley, will be out in two Tuesday’s (February 23rd) on Thrill Jockey . You can pre-order it on LP or CD here.


  1. moving, and a great description; thank you for taking us along with you with this post

    Comment by Allen — February 14, 2010 @ 5:59 pm
  2. The tribute show the other night was great… sad to have lost him so young!

    Comment by Mark — February 15, 2010 @ 8:15 pm
  3. I actually saw him play last October in Tallahassee, about a month or 2 before he died.

    Didn’t know that much about him at the time only that he was kind of affiliated with the whole freak folk thing, I’d just recently gotten into John Fahey and American Primitivism.

    He blew me away when he played probably one of the best shows I’ve ever been too.
    RIP Jack

    Comment by Nick — February 16, 2010 @ 6:15 pm
  4. Hi LisaVery happy to read about yourself. Reading the actnuocs of other people my story is entirly different. In the first sense you my feel like i am usless and not fit for this instument or music. i dont bother. i accept my defeat and the fate. intrest in guitar started at the age of 15. with my school fee i diverted some mony and i bought an old guitar with out the knowledge of my parents.(i am sorry for that). but with out somebody’s guidence it was impossible to learn guitar. Turning, strumming, freting the notes, playing the cords.. all were a hidden thing for me. i knocked many doors. but everyone need money. my family was poor that time. it was in 1970. No internet. no telephone, no television. I hope now you understnad how the surroundings blocked me in raising this talant. but i kept it as a dream. When ever i listen the songs i capture soon the sound of guitar and enjoy the music. in 1975 i came in kuwait. started working withlow wages. 1976 i bought a guitar. but the situation is same as in 1970. No money to spent, 1983 got married. 1990 father of 2 chirldren mean time i thought better to teach the children the music than i spend for myself .. because i love them .. i was happy when i see my younger daughter play organ and piano. now she is playing keyboard for a christian fellowship and praising lord. in her engineering college she was one of the stars. Formed her own music troops and staged many occations. i am happy now.In 2008 in the age of 53 i approched a guitar instructor.. and revealed my self.. now my responsibilities have got over.. i am able to pay fee for the guitar class.. the first opinion from him was .. it is not so easy for you at this age. but try.. fast movement of your fingers may be difficult for you. but try.. ! now for 2 years i go for classes. weekly one hour class. monthly 4 classess. Now i am playing almost all cords. playing pices of musics . i am so eager to see when people play Different way of strumming guitar. So i went to youtube and checked. that s the way i met you . Thanks a lot for responding the mail. with regards Sunu

    Comment by Beatriz — December 9, 2012 @ 8:52 am

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