Prester John: Desire for a Straight Line – Shawn Persinger, acoustic guitar/ David Miller, mandolin – Innova 774, 48:12 [Distr. by Naxos]****:
Prester John is a mythical medieval figure who first gained wide currency because of a forged letter ostensibly by him that appeared in Constantinople around 1165. His legends were very popular (“Presbyter Johannes”) and the source of not a few tales describing his Camelot-like kingdom and the host of wonders to be found there (Fountain of Youth, Borders of the Earthly Paradise, etc.) He was all the more remarkable as his kingdom existed in the midst of hostile Muslim and Oriental Pagan peoples, which probably went a long way to explaining the popularity of the stories in the Byzantine (east Roman) Empire.
In this case the title of this duo has little to do with anything except for perhaps the eclectic nature of this music. It’s almost – aside from the obvious that a mandolin and acoustic guitar are involved – impossible to tell you what this music “is”. Think Frank Zappa but then don’t; add jazz, but not; Eastern melodies that aren’t; and maybe classical elements that deceive, along with folk elements that mislead, and maybe you will get the idea—or won’t. At any rate, these two guys are sensational on their instruments, gliding through this music—whatever it is—like two pros with nary a thought as to technical hurdles or the need to concentrate on musicality. It simply comes to them both very naturally. And on top of that, the music itself—no matter what kind you call it—is rhythmic, lyrical, dancelike, complex, simple, full of harmony, lacking it—oh why go on, you get the idea—right? But it will entertain, that is guaranteed. So get it—or don’t—depending on how adventurous you are. Boredom will not happen.
Tall Tale Pathology Half Speed Cakewalk Plain of Jars Song for Henry Threadgill to Sing Making Circles Janet Feder: Silhouette No. 2 Marionette Waltz in Four Wender’s Saturday’s Tribe Mike Sary: Silhouette No. 3 The Library Thief Duet for Piano and Violin No. 1 Duckling Saints Dave Kerman: Silhouette No. 1 The Favored Colour of Light
— Steven Ritter