Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sir Richard Bishop

From the opening ghost town scene to the deserted station Sir Richard Bishop ’s train heads out of at the end of Fingering the Devil, his ability to evoke stories where there aren’t words proves he is alone in doing just that. On the liner notes, Bishop recounts the tale of a near impossible session with Harvey Birrell - the curating engineer for the series. Bonkered train schedules, rain drenching his guitar case, (which suffered a broken handle along the way) and closed tube stations barely let Bishop arrive at Birrell’s doorstep to a warm cup of coffee.

His fingers can be heard drying out as they tap dance erratic fills up and down the frets and land, out of breath, on sadder minor notes. He leads us through sad lullabies to Anglo Saxon seeming battle hymns on "Dream of the Lotus Eaters". I can pick up the same medieval curiosity that fascinated groups like Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull .

There is an air of discovery and forlorn emotion as every nuance and finger slide can be heard by the squeaks of his strings. The imagery moves into an enchanted forest where listeners are spun around and lost in the EP’s title track. Then in "Spanish Bastard", two brute forces can be heard scuffling and kicking up dirt on the hollow wood guitar as Bishop plays to one’s demise.

Image of the Fingering the Devil CoverThe ornate packaging on this release is, by itself, a treasure. As I stare at the cover of the cardboard folding case with a white ink border, the center puzzles me. It is an image of a hand making a peace sign or bunny ears. What looks so iconic about it is the silver pressed foil into the cardboard — the silver part being the shadow of the hand gesture. After a few minutes… a lot of them, I notice the animal the shadow is formed as. It looks like an evil lamb with extra long horns or a devil. I feel like there is supposed to be something symbolic about it beyond what I see…could it be that the hand in question is from a robed figure…possibly Jesus? Could it just be a smart move on the part of Bishop to leave us filling in all the blanks...

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