• North Country Primitive

Dibson T. Hoffweiler - Oakland to Sebastopol (2016, Editions Littlefield)

Originally published at North Country Primitive in May 2016

Oakland to Sebastopol, so titled to commemorate Dibson T. Hoffweiler’s recent move from the urban to the rural and partly recorded in each location, is the latest release on Andrew Weathers’ fine tape label, Editions Littlefield. It’s primarily a solo guitar album, but one that is sparingly augmented by synth textures from Mr Weathers himself and flute from Sarah Stanley. For me, it’s the flute/guitar combination that lifts this already lovely album to another level: in lesser hands, such a pairing could have degenerated into generic new age waftiness, but Dibson and Sarah inject enough bite and eccentricity into the proceedings to avoid this. Walking from MacArthur is charmingly bucolic, without slipping over the border into the anything twee or cloying, radiating an optimism for new beginnings; Eastern Coastal Crumbs is incidental music for the best spooky children’s TV programme never made, birdsong and Incredible String Band-soaked psychedelic pastoralism.

Other tracks that particularly stand out include the synth-enhanced Laguna Rising, which is all sparkles and early morning sun. Another Sunday Dinner is probably the most classically American Primitive sounding track on the album, an uproarious mountain hoedown or the sort that should be appreciated in dungarees and hobnailed boots. Five Years a Home, which would have made a great closer, if that honour hadn’t already gone to Walking from MacArthur, is slow-paced and stately, a reflective and dignified piece, just tinged with a shade of regret.

In the olden days, before we succumbed to the curse of instant gratification, collective attention deficit disorder and pathological multitasking, this album would have been called a grower. That’s not to say that it doesn’t impress on first listen – it does - but it also benefits from close, repeated listening in a quiet corner. Dibson’s playing is confident and assured, but he never attempts to overwhelm the listener with too much sound – this is a musician who appreciates the value of space. To these ears, he saves many of the best tracks for the second half of the album, which means the listener’s pleasure only increases over course of forty-odd minutes. I find myself leaving this album with the desire to hear a more overtly realised trio outing for guitar, flute and synth next time – it’s surely a logical leap. In the meanwhile, this will do just fine.