William Tyler rise as a noted guitarist in Guitar Town comes from his indelible work with the Silver Jews, soul legend Candi Staton, and Lambchop - the ensemble that Tyler remains with today. Although a young man, Tyler's approach to the guitar is singular and already without compare. His own words about the making of Behold The Spirit capture his personal vision of instrumental music:
I stopped writing words when I was about 23. I stopped even pretending. When a melody came to me, I would just let it escape untamed and hope, at least, that it would hang around my head for a while - long enough for me to learn it. When I write songs now, I imagine the words are trapped in a dead language, or an undeciphered alphabet.... I would hope for my melodies to be similarly lost in a permanent fog.
Like other legendary guitarists, Tyler coaxes sounds and vibrations out of the frets, strings, and wood that lie outside the linear understanding of instrument. John Fahey and his Takoma cohorts might be a touchstone for Tyler, but Tyler's background as part of ensembles and through his session work give him both tangible foundations and perhaps a broader scope. While there might only be two truly experimental tracks contained herein ("To The Finland Station" and "Signal Mountain"), the rest of the tracks "experiment" using traditional reference points.
"Terrace of the Leper King" combines ancient British folk sounds with classical overtones. "Missionary Ridge" sounds like Merle Travis channeling Duane Allman's "Little Martha" (or vice-versa). "Oahspe" catches between the trans-Atlantic folk traditions and bluegrass. Throughout, the songs sound as though the listener could be sitting in the room with Tyler as he provides a private concert.
Tyler plugs in for "Tears and Saints" and one can immediately hear why he is in such demand as a session player. "The Cult of the Peacock Angel" layers Tyler's acoustic melody over a soaring pedal steel. By the time "The Green Pastures" begins, you can almost see these fields in your mind. This song has some of the same incredible interplay that reminds one of Dickey Betts and Chuck Leavell on Dickey's Highway Call album. The ending "Ponotoc" lingers like a evening sunset waiting for the day to end.
William Tyler is yet another young southern instrumentalist who has the skill and vision to challenge listeners but the sense of melody to never alienate them. Behold The Spirit properly introduces listeners to Tyler's personal and magical language of song.
- Jim Markel
William Tyler - Behold The Spirit