I am so glad Steve Tibbetts made it back to the recording studio, and “Life Of” is why he shouldn’t be allowed to leave it


The casual way Steve Tibbetts instills serenity with his guitar makes it seem like that state is just an impromptu decision.  Perhaps that’s why it often feels so fragile, leaving me transfixed and afraid to even move a little bit for fear of shattering it.  The guitarist has been with the ECM Records label for decades, and his new album Life Of falls right into line with the tranquil bliss of his early works on the label.  Where it diverges is its insistence on staying right there in that peaceful place.  Most of his previous works possessed a ready willingness to amp up the intensity and show how the thunderstorm possesses as much beauty as the calm that precedes it.  On Life Of, Tibbetts reveals the varied facets of those moments of calm.

And much like albums previous, Tibbetts’ newest has an ephemeral source of influence.  It’s a little bit modern jazz, a little bit folk, and a little bit World Music.  The only thing that really changes is the part of the world that the music tethers itself to.  Sometimes the music echoes that of Nepal and sometimes that of Norway and sometimes of his Midwest roots… but always in just the vaguest sense, as if it just drifted in with the tide and entered a confluence with Tibbetts’ own personal aesthetic.  But all of it is beautiful.

There’s nothing quite like a Steve Tibbetts recording.  When you require a tool to bring peacefulness into your life or when you’ve already attained it and just need an appropriate soundtrack, Tibbetts’ music is a sure bet.  Life Of is further evidence of why.  It’s also an example of why he needs to be coaxed back into the recording studio much more frequently to create much more of this wonderful music.

Your album personnel:  Steve Tibbetts (guitar, piano), Marc Anderson (percussion, handpan) and Michelle Kinney (cello, drones).

Released on ECM Records.

Music from Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota.

Available at:  Amazon