MOJO · January, 2023
Forty years on two CDs: a guitar explorer’s long ride on an iconic jazz label.
Steve Tibbetts, an American guitarist and composer from the upper Midwest, released two independent LPs of progressive rock impressionism before making his debut for Manfred Eicher’s imprint, 1982’s Northern Song. Tibbetts has been an ECM artist ever since, pursuing a movable crossroads of modal psychedelia, dreamscape electronics and ceremonial rhythms across the eight albums anthologised in this set. I’ve previously likened Tibbetts’ Indo-riff ascension and locomotive drama to the spiritual Carlos Santana and Robert Fripp in the court of the Dalai Lama. But there is jubilant rock’n’roll vengeance too (this set’s title track, taken from 1994’s The Fall Of Us All) and a compelling lyricism in the acoustic spells. Tibbetts credits Black Mountain Side to Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page but illuminates it like an evening prayer in Kashmir. If you are new to Tibbetts, Hellbound Train is an exciting introduction – with an epic journey on the other side of the door.