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