$10

The Dead Tongues

The Burl Presents
18+

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The Burl

375 Thompson Rd

Lexington, KY 40508-2044

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The Dead Tongues at The Burl

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Doors at 7pm

Show at 8pm

18+

Ryan Gustafson remembers very little about the origins of the ten songs on UnsungPassage, his profound new reflection on the emotional architecture of love, loneliness, and life atlarge.He mostly knows that the songs were written during quick spans scattered betweenvarious tours of the last two years—as a supporting guitarist for his kindred North Carolinaspirits Hiss Golden Messenger and Phil Cook’s Guitarheels and as the leader of his ownlong-evolving vehicle for a beautifully fractured vision of folk, country, blues, and cosmicAmerican rock, The Dead Tongues. Gustafson’s third and best album under that name, UnsungPassage depends more on the songs themselves than the sounds around them. It is a first-personreckoning with the things Gustafson, a chronically peripatetic adventurer, has seen enough tosing about. “Every turn, every changing that occurs,” Gustafson offers during “The Broken Sideof People Everywhere,” his voice sweetly yearning for whatever it is that might come next.“There’s a string attached, with a promise at the end.”Indeed, funneling the lessons of the road into songs isn’t new for Gustafson; during thelast two decades, it has become his standard practice. When he was twenty, he left NorthCarolina for the first of many backpacking trips across Europe, little but a sense of adventure andwonder to his name. He has hitchhiked from Oregon to New Orleans with a banjo and a bag andlived in and rebuilt an aging school bus, meant for an extended trek across the continent (that is,until the cost of gas proved prohibitive). After several years in a commune in the western woodsof Asheville, North Carolina, he now lives in a nearby camper, at least when he’s off the roadlong enough to call anything home. “When I’m traveling, it’s like walking into these differentwindows. I’m a witness, with my mouth shut,” Gustafson says. “The people you meet, the waythe landscape speaks to you, how a desert is different than a mountain: It has the potential tobring out something you didn’t know was there.”The ten remarkable songs of Unsung Passage are long-distance distillations of suchexperiences, of events lived and places seen and pondered and ultimately poured into reflectiveanthems for our harried times. During “Like a Dream,” a gentle gallop of grinning harmonicaand trickling guitar, Gustafson explores the balance of existence from a hillside vantage. He seesthe curve of the earth while pondering his need for a paycheck, a moment that eternally pits thebanal against the beautiful. “The Broken Side of People Everywhere” is a gorgeous love songwritten with the wisdom of someone who knows that nothing is forever or perfect, that there’s noreal risk in a life where everything ends, anyway. There are meditations on mortality anddevotion (the flute-laced dream “My Other/Little Birdie”), on money and temporality (the banjotrot “The Giver”), and on impermanence and acceptance (the achingly gorgeous “Pale NovemberDew.”) This isn’t Gustafson’s idle speculation about life and the world; these are the realizationsof a restless mind, of a songwriter who sings “this old town ain’t gonna watch me die” andmeans it.Gustafson recorded these songs much as they were written—during short summersojourns away from the road, when he and a quartet of friends could gather in the Chapel Hillstudio The Rubber Room for two-day sessions. Longtime North Carolina confidants and

collaborators James Wallace, Jeff Crawford, and Casey Toll form the rhythm section, whileMountain Man’s Molly Sarlé harmonizes softly and adds a filigree of unexpected flute. Otherfriends offer fiddle and percussion, cello and extra guitar, softly padding songs that stand asstatements unto themselves. “Sitting down with an acoustic instrument and making a song,singing, and playing it was the idea,” says Gustafson. “I’ll follow a song to wherever it goes, butI tried to keep this one in the room. This sounds like what we played, what you’re hearing.”These ten songs are snapshots in time, then, glimpses at the sorts of emotional upheavals andadjustments we’re all forced to face as we move from day to day and, as in Gustafson’s way,place to place. The familiar sounds of Unsung Passage, a reflection of Americana bedrock,present a comforting score for some of life’s most uncomfortable situations. But they will pass.“Ain’t it all right?” Gustafson demands at one point. “Ain’t it all like a dream?” After all thatliving, it surely is.

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The Burl

375 Thompson Rd

Lexington, KY 40508-2044

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