A sequel to the "Berkeley Guitar" album highlighting similar styles, this compilation finds seven Berkeley acoustic guitarists working to tap into and enrich the American Primitive vein. In the pieces, all recorded within the year before the release, the players explore the farthest reaches of a wide range of techniques. Some, like Richard Osborn, give long, immersive drone explorations that use not only high-string but low-string leads against familiar ringing open strings. Elsewhere, Trevor Healy brings open tunings to melodic counterparts that meditatively circle each other. Lucas Boilon provides a standout track with, "Studies Of The Oak As Pertaining To Druidic Rites Of Passage," a highly structured piece featuring impressive classical-inspired counterpoint and precisely rhythmic fingerpicking that bounces notes out of his steel-string.
Most of the pieces pick and choose how to expand on this style while retaining the sure fingerstyle technique and spiritual yearning of some earlier recordings. There’s an intimacy and seriousness that puts the focus on mood as well as the deep exploration of harmony and rhythm. As such, there is little harmonic dissonance here, with the players choosing instead to develop more and more intricate picking lines and staying in mostly familiar melodic structures. This might be a hallmark of this branch of the style, passing on fragments and dissonance in favor of the ever-elusive unity of purpose.
The liner notes, written by Sean Smith, who provides the longest track here with the tensely reflective suite, "Ourselves When We Are Real," assert a deep sense of community among these musicians. They're reaching in various ways toward virtuosity on their own musical paths, but their supportiveness of each other, to the degree that it appears on this compilation, can only aid in such an esoteric search. 7/10 -- Travis Bird (28 July, 2010)