Two voices trace a melody through the air in unison, sparking miniature harmonies in their moments of divergence. They synchronize into a close lead — a Melody Plus, now with double the impact. This telepathic duet is known as a jugalbandi (literally “twins entwined”) in the Indian classical tradition. Fall deep into a skilled jugalbandi and you’ll come to perceive only one voice, nuanced to death, split across the room into two bodies.
On “I’ll Play The High Card, You Play The Ace,” our second taste of The Black Twig Pickers’ forthcoming Rough Carpenters, fiddlers Mike Gangloff and Sally Anne Morgan treat us to an Appalachian jugalbandi. The string duo winds through the traditional folk melody as one voice, their conjoined runs and double stops rising over a backbone of banjo and fingerpicked guitar. Assertions of East meeting West aren’t so far-fetched here, given that the BTPs share half their personnel with drone/raga/psych explorers Pelt. If that ensemble overtly bridges cultures by deriving song structures and instrumentation from the carnatic tradition, the BTPs keep things closer to home, achieving a back-porch liveness gilded with a few jewels of the Baroda Palace.
The Black Twig Pickers have blurred the line between the modern and the Lomax for eight albums and counting, channeling traditional tunes through their experience with more “out”-minded musics. In the case of “I’ll Play the High Card, You Play the Ace,” considerations of the music’s lineage or geographical origin pale in the light of that Melody Plus: twin fiddles entwined for three wholly pleasurable minutes.
Thrill Jockey releases Rough Carpenters on LP and CD February 19th. Pre-order the album straight from them, and it’ll arrive at your home in a safely packed mailer before you know it.