Mountain music

Through the glass I observed the focus. Dripping delicious tones, the Headrush amp & pedal combined with a Fender Jaguar to release something…something that felt right for the moment.

Edison bulbs hung with reverence and cast a deceptive glow. Everything lit, nothing bright. Six hours of rain had recently ended, and the fresh air was alive with joyous frog talk. Inside, the world was silent, and it felt like a cathedral.

Motionless but for necessary fretting and minute flicks of the right hand, Carlos curated a tasteful solo over the course of an hour,. The northern wall of the A-frame cabin was a massive glass portal, another creation of Carlos – he’s an architect by day.

I strode back and forth on the patio, sending short voice messages via text. Pseudo-conversations of this sort are one of many reminders of the remote location.

We weren’t in LA at a studio, or hanging in the hills of Tennessee. Nonetheless, a muse in our midst. The cabin sat nestled on an overlook – the valley down below, the mountains above. The foothills of the Andes Mountains in southern Colombia – if South America had an Appalachia, this would be it. Simple.

How a farm boy from northwest Kansas found himself recording in such a picturesque destination was more a matter of fateful impulse than considered plot. Fresh off three weeks in Morocco with friends, I’d returned to Kansas and the world calling, and I listened. Africa had ripped the plastic off the couch that was my hesitancy to wander. Travel is stressful, to be sure. The instant I landed, however, I was reminded of that simple truth I’d realized over a decade before on a trip to Europe.

Everyplace you go feels…not far. It just feels like…here. Here I am, playing in the Andes. Here I am, at the wonderful gym in my hometown. Here I am, on a dromedary (“camel”) in the Sahara Desert, playing guitar with Touareg tour guides by firelight under the stars, hopelessly attempting to add a melody to their seemingly chaotic awkward drum-beats. Remember filling your fountain drink with a suicidal mix of every flavor? If that were music, it would be the Touareg’s jam.

Not here, however…not Colombia. Carlos spent years honing his chops, applying the strict discipline of his Jesuit education with nearly a decade of playing full-time. Watching him work was mesmerizing. A bit more vibrato here, a bit more smooth on this transition. It came together, first technically correct but wanting emotion…and then art happened.

”Ready?” I asked. He was.

I pushed the red button and gently sank into the couch, closed my eyes, and let the sound wash over me.


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