Gren Bartley – Quiet II

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Gren Bartley always provides a certain place for the listener to go, a place of meditation and repose, where the mixed up, muddled up, shook up world can do one.  He does this by paying attention to the sonic possibilities of his beloved steel resonator guitar, which he treats with respect.  We had a taste of this back in the autumn of 2018 when the first helping of Quiet was released and Quiet II essentially continues where the last one left off.  When listening to Gren’s instrumental compositions, there’s a tendency to focus not only on the notes, but also the ambient sounds that surround the notes; the scrape of the strings, the gentle clatter and clangs of the slide and the resonant touches upon the body of the instrument itself.  It’s all part of the same piece and in a way, makes each piece feel like they are being performed right there in front of you.

Opening with a delicate reworking of the dreamy Santo & Johnny instrumental Sleep Walk, the ten-track album delivers on its promise to look at the quieter nature of the music that Gren is making at the moment.  The bluesy “True” confirms that song writing is still an essential part of Gren’s remit, yet it’s during the instrumentals where we get to hear the musical passion and ongoing interest in music from around the world, including India, Africa, China and Scandinavia.  If “Hukilau” was the feel good Hawaiian selection from the first Quiet album, then “I Wish They Didn’t Mean Goodbye” serves as the same here, despite its title.  Each of the selections are fresh off the mixing desk with the exception of “The Entrance”, an earlier piece from a couple of years ago, which evokes the spirit of the Griot traditions of West Africa. This is another great Sunday morning record.

Choice Track: Sleep Walk (NSV 494)