TR3 - The Left Hand of Darkness
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Friday, April 21, 2006
Guitaring Up A Storm

Guitaring Up A Storm
April 21, 2006 9:51 AM

Among other things, versatile guitar wizard Tim Reynolds knows about the variations on the theme of music venues. He has roamed the land as the guitarist with Dave Matthews for years, working the circuit of sprawling venues. Meanwhile, the frequent Matthews collaborator has also been avidly developing his life as a solo artist, on a scale much humbler than the arena scene.

When Reynolds returns to play SOhO on Sunday, it will be mostly just the man and his acoustic guitar, offering a scaled-down progress report on his evolving musical life.

Striking a balance between the two facets of his public musical life is Reynolds' ongoing project. "A couple of years ago, I (worked with Matthews) more often," he says, in a recent phone interview, "but I was trying to keep from doing it full-time, because it's a major commitment once you join a band that tours all year, every year. I could never jump on that. I like to play a lot of music, but I also like to be home to learn and create more music in a different, non-pressure environment."

That doesn't mean, however, that Reynolds avoids applying pressure on his creativity. Further confusing the issue of the guitarist's musical identity -- or, more specifically, expanding his identity -- is the matter of his most recent album, a mostly electric two-disc set called "Parallel Universe," full of wild guitar work and layered electronics.

Almost as a challenge to himself, Reynolds played all the instruments on the album, which was constructed in his home studio in Santa Fe, N.M. Stylistically, Reynolds sounds here like a contender in the neo-progressive rock style, with detours into folk and even a pinch of reggae.

As Reynolds explains of the two discs, "the first CD is an attempt at lush production values I've admired over the years, with people like Peter Gabriel or Seal, who you can tell spent time making records, but in a good way. And the second CD is more shooting-from-the-hip kind of music, where it was just a quick recording and a quick mix, and you realize that it doesn't need more.

"It's just fun to experiment with the different extremes of recording. Now I'm back to recording with no effects or anything, just solo acoustic guitar."

Asked whether the title "Parallel Universe" is a sly reference to the parallel musical situations in his life, the expansive-thinking Reynolds admits as much and then some. "It's that," he says, "and also just the whole idea of playing acoustic and then ripping on electric guitar with drum machines. I also got the idea from a Scientific American article. They realize now that there are mad things going on in the micro world, and the ramifications for this world is that there is plenty of room for other dimensions."

Chameleonic without apology, Reynolds' various guises are patches in the quilt of an instinctively eclectic musician, one whose easy flexibility and depth of feeling appealed to Matthews in the first place.

Their connection goes back to the regional music scene in Charlottesville, Va., where Reynolds was a resident guitar hero. Virginian Matthews is one of those mega-rock stars who spent years honing his craft before the spotlight of mass fame arrived. Reynolds has worked with Matthews off and on for years now, while building up his solo persona, especially since he moved with his family to a house just outside of Santa Fe.

While his own musical path as a solo artist is fairly under-the-radar, by comparison with Matthews' career, Reynolds has great respect for the way Matthews has navigated his way through life in a highly visible commercial musical life. "What makes Dave Matthews great as an individual is that he's able to flow with all the things that a record company can do, good and bad, and just work with it, and not feel or be compromised. I like to control what I'm doing, which is bad and good.

"Dave is able to let go of that, but still feel like it's his thing, because he's not afraid to let other people in on the process. With a record company, that's essentially what you're doing. It becomes a committee thing."

These days, Reynolds has delved deep into the do-it-yourself mode, both in making his own recordings and plotting his own life as a touring musician. "I'm lucky because of the Dave Matthews connection," he explains, "which has allowed me financially do that over the years.

"If I didn't have that connection, I might still be living in Charlottesville (Va.) and playing in the four cities in that area for a living, which I did for many years. I played weddings, jazz gigs, had my own band and played in three or four other bands. That's how you make a living as a local musician.

"When I moved to New Mexico, I realized I just had to travel for any gigs. I worked on little tours, figuring out a way to do it so I don't spend all my time out (on the road). But even so, it seems like you're gone all the time, no matter how you chop it up. If you're gone for eight weeks or three weeks, you're still spending time out to work."

Music continues to flow out of the guitarist, presently working on another album, this time focusing on the purer, acoustic side of his music. "I don't plan to ever retire," he says. "That's crazy. I'm not going to stop playing music. That's wrong. Maybe at some point, I'll be physically unable to do it, but then I would still think about it."

Santa Barbara New-Press