Alpaca Lips

Release Date: 05/01/2000 · Format: CD · Catalog-No: GR 482

Rainer Ptácèk worked on “Alpaca Lips” before he had his first seizure in early `96. This was supposed to be the follow-up to the beautiful ambient-trance-instrumental album “Nocturnes”.
He died on November 12, 1997 due to an inoperable brain tumor and we at Glitterhouse are proud to be able to release all these wonderful albums by a man who left a lot of friends and admirers among musicians and music-lovers alike.

”Alpaca Lips” is the first in a row of five releases (for more info on the others check out the News-section) and it could best be compared to “Worried Spirits”- the `92 album that featured just him and his trusted old dobro.
Seventeen sun-bleached marvels, with a sparse and intimate feel. You hear every zing of the bottleneck slide, every wheeze of the resonating guitar body, every tap on the floor. The tone and subtleties of his guitar playing are wonderfully emotive, reminiscent of Skip James or a slightly less dexterous Robert Johnson and whereas most blue-eyed bluesmen tend to shout, Rainer has the troubled moan of the real thing, a vulnerable David Byrne-esque voice that round things off perfectly.
Apart from a cover of Stevie Wonder´s “Pastime Paradise”, where Rainer is backed by Convertino/Burns of Calexico/Giant Sand-fame, the album is a solo experience. But those who ever witnessed Rainer live on stage know that he could create a guitar inferno just with his incredible skills and two small tape-loops at his feet.
The majority of the record consists of 3-4 minutes songs like „Rude World“, „The Good Book“, „Flashlight“, „Drive“ and „De-Railed!“ (to name just a few) who rate among the best this desert blues genius has ever recorded. These are nicely arranged around the 10-minute instrumental “Horse Hair”, a slowly unfolding, dreamlike composition that could be right off his “Nocturnes” album. Next to the 14 originals are 3 coverversions: the aforementioned Stevie Wonder, „One Wrong Turn“ by Greg Brown (who he also covered on “Worried Spirits”) and „All Done In“ by his friend Howe Gelb.

What Q-magazine´s Matt Snow wrote about “Worried Spirits” is also valid for “Alpaca Lips”: “…this album showcases more than just a scholar of the old-time religion making the right moves but one who has got under the skin of the blues.”

“`Why does his chant sound more relevant than ever?´ writes Howe Gelb in the Alpaca liner notes. "Because of his conviction, his intelligence, his love, his choiceäthe music has more life than ever." Indeed. It's an astonishing album that's neither "folk" nor "blues," occupying some rarefied space in between the boundaries of genre. It's also one marked by a subtle series of stylistic arcs and a keen attention to dynamic and textural nuance, a sonic journey in the truest sense. Following a funky introductory instrumental "Here Comes Lilly" (named after Rainer's young daughter) comes a cautionary triad: the droning, wraithlike "Rude World" suggests we pay close heed to those who indiscriminately breed hurt; "The Good Book," driven by a restless, ominous blues twang, bemoans the veiled indiscretions of literal-thinking Bible-thumpers; and Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise," with elegant vibraphone and bass accompaniment from John Convertino and Joey Burns, becomes a shimmering meditation on how we wrap ourselves up in trivial pursuits, never noticing how time, so precious, does slip away.
Perhaps mindful of waxing too austerely, Rainer next charts a litany of lighter moments, including the buoyant and visually engaging "Flashlight" (about watching his son Rudy play), the down-home, quirky country blues "Bo Weavil" (a vocal showcase for Rainer, his slurring falsetto swoops are spine-tingling), and the sensual, arresting "Don't Know Why" (a prescient rumination upon Faith, aging and serendipity in which the narrator is ultimately comforted by his realization that "I love you so").
Mid-album comes the show-stopping, improvisational instrumental "Horse Hair." Its nine minutes provides an extended look at the dobro player's fretboard wizardry and tape-loop skills (the delay effect makes him sound like two or three guitarists at once); if you never saw Rainer perform live, this will give you some sense of his virtuosity--his fingers didn't so much sync with what we call "technical skill" as they served as channelers or dowsing rods for something deeper, purer, of the soul.
Yet more highlights fill out the set, of which my personal favorites are the elegiac, almost gospellish "Something's"--the straightforward message of which falls somewhere between "High Hopes" and "Let It Be"--with the final lyrics advising, "Something's got to give/ Maybe you'll be the one to give it." And finally, the Howe Gelb-penned "All Done In," a confessional whose plangent hum and heartbeat pulse brings the album to an appropriately low-key, gentle close.” (Fred Milles / Tucson Weekly)

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1. Here Comes Lilly
2. Rude World
3. The Good Book
4. Pastime Paradise
5. Flashlight
6. One Wrong Turn
7. Bo Weavil
8. De-Railed!
9. Don`t Know Why
10. Drive
11. Horse Hair
12. Something`s
13. Story Teller
14. Unseen Enemy
15. Bo Weavil
16. Lament Of Love
17. All Done In