When I hear tracks such as the acoustic goodness of Iron Shackle, an age-old argument and bugbear springs to my mind. When faced with someone with an acoustic guitar, many brands them as a folk act, no matter what issues from their six strings. It is as if they can conceive nothing outside the folk realm that would require such an antiquated instrument. Worse still are those who consider acoustic music a genre in its own right. (I mean, you wouldn’t put all plugged-in music, from crushing metal music to ambient cinematic soundtracks, in the same pigeon-hole, would you? If you did, they would call you insane.)
Ironically, Iron Shackle is a delicious and delicate instrumental piece and is a folk track. One made in the American tradition, but folk nonetheless. But it isn’t the acoustic guitar than makes it folk music. It is the tune itself. But then there is more than just folk music going on here too. The deft and dexterous picking adds a very bluesy sheen to things. The jauntiness of the playing suggests south-eastern bluegrass traditions. The song’s simplicity (in terms of the overall concept, not in execution, as the playing is very ornate and elegant) gives rise to images of cowboy campfire songsters. Stylistically it seems to come from an earlier age, and there are even classic overtones in the technique and technicalities, as well as the crispness and cleanliness of the playing. Folk? Perhaps, but so much more.
Taken from the newly released Denver, an album comprised of such instrumentals, Iron Shackle tells you everything you need to know about what to expect from the album. As a teaser and taster of what is to follow, it sets out the album’s stall perfectly.
Fans of roots music will naturally love it. But so too will fans of other genres. Rockers will appreciate that the music being played here echoes the sound that all rock and roll music is based on; the blues and country sonic marriage instigated their chosen genre. Folkies and country are a shoo-in. Even popsters and indie kids might take time out of their worlds of fad and fashion to appreciate something pure yet accessible; music stripped down to its very musical essence.
In fact, no matter what music you favour, you should still buy Denver. Think of it as an exquisite musical sorbet, a simple and refreshing sonic cleanser that refreshes and purifies the palette before you tuck into spicier dishes. Even a simple sorbet should be appreciated for the elegant flavour it is and the essential and overlooked role that it performs.