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Echoes
Maine guitarist creates an ambient Americana anthem
Maine guitarist creates an ambient Americana anthem
Sumner McKane's musical landscapes are tinged in ambient atmospheres and pulled by an undertow of psychedelia Sumner McKane
What a Great Place to Be
It's been several years now that guitarist Sumner McKane has been releasing albums of evocative soundscapes dipped in Americana as cinematic as a John Ford western and as nuanced as an Andrew Wyeth painting. But McKane's landscapes are tinged in ambient atmospheres and pulled by an undertow of psychedelia that makes them some of the most unassumingly mind-bending music of the decade.

And unassuming may be Sumner's only problem, because there's little that's extravagant or extraneous in his music. As I said about his October 2005 CD of the Month, North, it's like a long ride through the countryside. He carries you places before you're even aware you're going. Take one of his unwieldy song titles, "After the Fireworks We Walked to the Rope Swing." It's gawky and long, but strangely evocative of a nostalgic sensibility. Sumner takes you there, but not before a long dimly lit sunrise, a pristine soundscape and a feedback-laced guitar solo unfold. That track alone makes What A Great Place to Be essential, but Sumner keeps coming, layering guitars, acoustic and electric, in delirious melodies across ambiently etched backings. Songs like "Riding in Cars in the Woods" references his country background with pedal steel like guitar lines, while simultaneously echoing Pink Floyd, circa Dark Side of the Moon.

Most of Sumner McKane's What a Great Place to Be was birthed at the same time he brought his two daughters into the world. No doubt their presence impacted the sometimes serene nature of the album, but Sumner's music has always had a homespun quality. His CD covers are usually home snapshots and landscapes from Maine, and his titles, like "1975 Chevrolet" harken back to his youth.

Sumner manages to touch the nostalgic, wistful side of us, without being remotely quaint or corny. Sumner McKane's new album is What A Great Place to Be and it makes you feel exactly like that, wherever you're listening. It's like the gentlest acid dream in a sun-drenched meadow and it's our CD of the Month for October.