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A Nashville Insider Steps Outside
A Nashville Insider Steps Outside
Guitarist Michael Spriggs spins dreamy landscapes awash in melody, tinged by a bit of country twang. Michael Spriggs
Neurasenia
(Agnes)
I first heard of Michael Spriggs in 1999 when he sent us an album called Without Words. His mixture of country-tinged guitar with synthesizer textures and expansive compositions was immediately distinctive. Little did I realize that millions of people had heard Spriggs as a session musician on dozens of country hits, including some that he'd composed. Like Without Words, Neurasenia is a long way from his work with Eddie Rabbitt and Kenny Rogers, but it does share that music's a natural flow and an earthy feel that pigments his music like a fallen leaves on an autumn day.

Neurasenia is a word Spriggs says he heard from his doctor to describe an essential state of existence or beingness. I can't find that anywhere, but maybe Spriggs' music is the definition. Neurasenia is a CD full of gentle melodies, lovely arrangements and pastoral moods that seem to emerge from some deeper yearning in this musician that goes beyond the confines of country. It's a music that wants to travel like "Waterfall," a track that sits between country and Kabul, with Middle Eastern percussion and a country violin.

He uses his guitars as an orchestra, mixing acoustic, electric and synthesizer guitar. The title track is a cinematic excursion down an imaginary highway. A picked acoustic guitar cycle is punctuated by sweeping chordal strums that are underpinned by a muted violin pad, creating a steady-state momentum brushed by sudden turns. On "The Wind When you Leave," he plays a spare acoustic guitar that leaves synthesizer trails in its wake, swirling like eddies behind a slowly rowed boat. Even though he's inspired by the electronic landscapes of Steve Roach, Spriggs has a pop composer's sense of form as he spins dreamy landscapes awash in melody, all tinged by a bit of country twang.

As if Spriggs wasn't enough of a Nashville oddity, on the final track, "Xu Moon" he plays the guzheng, a Chinese zither similar to a koto. On this meditative ambient track, he improvises on the instrument over the course of 10 minutes, starting out atmospheric before converging on a looping rhythm as guitar and guzheng play counterpoints to each other.

Michael actually sent me an early version of Neurasenia seven years ago. I'm glad it's finally seeing the light of day.