Here we have another album in what to my ears is one of the most essential series of recordings ever captured. For those who have somehow managed to miss my reviews so far, the concept behind this is really simple. Label boss and recording engineer Dan Emery invites a bluegrass/country musician to come down to the studio, and then instead of setting them up in the normal studio they are invited to perform under the magnolia tree in the backyard while the cicadas are present, and that’s it. No overdubs, embellishments, or trickery, just musicians and their instruments recording in the most basic of settings which in some ways takes us back to the time of Alan Lomax and his field recordings.

This session features The Hill Country Devil, otherwise known as songwriter Hayden Karchmer, who performs a selection of material which spans from the present day to some fourteen years earlier. Just a man with an acoustic guitar, telling the stories of what he has seen and what he has experienced over the years. He holds nothing back, as while his music is inviting it is his lyrics which really grab the attention. I smiled when I heard the first line of the first song, “Restaurant Rat”, where he sings “Well I’m a feeder, on the bottom” as I have never heard those two words reversed before and this is a great example of the wordplay one gets to hear throughout. He has a delicate touch on his picked guitar while his vocals are full of emotion and passion and one gets the impression here is someone who has really lived, seen many things, and is driven to share his experience with anyone who will stop and listen.

This is so far removed from the dance-led commercial rubbish which seems to form the core of modern “popular” music as to come from a different planet altogether, and anyone who comes across this will feel enriched from the experience. This is the first time I have come across Hayden but given the way that every song invites the listener in closely to hear more I am sure it will not be the last. I do need to call out Dan Emery once again, as this musical journey he is on always delivers the goods, and it is rare indeed for something to hit the mark every time, but he makes it seem easy. Each and everyone of The Magnolia Sessions is essential, and this is a great place to start your investigations.

Rating: 9/10