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Loren Connors

The eclectic music of improvisational guitarist Loren Connors is difficult to describe neatly and concisely, but avant-garde is the best generalization. Experimental, jazz, and blues also fit, and even hints of Irish music are evident. Connors -- who names abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko as his single biggest artistic influence -- is incredibly prolific; he released approximately 30 albums between 1978 and the end of the millennium -- many in extremely limited quantities -- on countless labels under his own name and a handful of pseudonyms (including Loren Mazzacane and Guitar Roberts). His wife, Suzanne Langille, occasionally sings on his recordings. Connors' obscure albums met with indifference until the early '90s when critics began to take notice, and supporters such as Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, Gastr del Sol's Jim O'Rourke and Alan Licht (who has recorded with Connors, Run On, Love Child, and Blue Humans) sang his praises. Connors, who often extensively edits his recordings to create albums, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1992. As a child, he studied violin (which he credits with shaping his vibrato technique on the guitar) and trombone. He also learned rock & roll bass guitar. Connors was heavily influenced by his mother's singing as well. She often performed Johann Sebastian Bach pieces at funerals. This exposure to classical music led Connors to investigate the music of Giacomo Puccini and Frederic Chopin. Blues, particularly the works of Robert Pete Williams and Muddy Waters, also appealed to him. He studied art at Southern Connecticut University and the University of Cincinnati in the early '70s, but he decided his music was more original than his painting. By 1976, he'd moved back to Connecticut. Two years later, Connors began issuing albums on his own Daggett label. Between 1978 and 1980, he released eight albums of solo acoustic guitar improvisations. Just 75 to 100 copies of each were pressed and sent out to radio stations, and Connors himself doesn't even have them all! (These albums were scheduled for re-release in 1998 as a four-CD set thanks to writer and Father Yod Records founder Byron Coley, a longtime Connors fan.)

Between 1984 and 1989, Connors was largely inactive musically. He married Langille and they started a family. He dabbled in writing during this period and he won a haiku award in Japan. He moved to New York City in 1990, and a year later he began releasing albums on labels other than his own. After Connors learned he had Parkinson's disease, it changed the direction of his music. His early work often consisted of short acoustic guitar pieces, but once the disease was discovered, he experimented with longer electric guitar works complete with feedback and distortion. Much of Connors' late-'90s output was released on Road Cone Records, a small label based in Portland, Oregon. The issue of The Lost Mariner, Connors' collaboration with bassist Darin Gray, was released in 1999. The Daggett Years, a compilation culled from the Unaccompanied Acoustic Guitar Improvisations, Vols. 1-9, 1979-1980, and Portrait of a Soul, followed in mid-2000. Little Match Girl was issued the following year along with a second collaboration with Gray entitled This Past Spring. The Departing of a Dream on Family Vineyard, Connors' solo studio meditation on September 11, 2001, saw its first volume released in 2002. That same year, the double-disc compilation Airs 1992-2001, was released as a limited CD-R. Departing of a Dream saw two more volumes released by Family Vineyard in 2003 and 2004, respectively (the latter was his last studio offering of new material for seven years). In France, with guitarist Alan Licht, was issued in 2003, as was the unique collaborative recording Arborvitae, with former Gastr del Sol guitarist David Grubbs. Connors, while continuing to release titles on numerous labels -- live or archival material -- became ever more closely affiliated with Family Vineyard, who have taken great care with his catalog as evidenced by their releases of As Roses Bow: Collected Airs 1992-2002, and Night Through: Singles and Collected Works 1976-2004, Two Nice Catholic Boys (with Jim O'Rourke), Curse of Midnight Mary, Into the Night Sky, and Hymn of the North Star; they kept fans aware of the various reissues and new live projects. Connors has released more than 50 recordings since the 1976, the bulk of which were in the '90s and early 21st century. The guitarist finally returned to the studio for Family Vineyard, and released Red Mars, a five-piece suite, in September of 2011 -- five days before the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, which informed the three Departing of a Dream albums. ~ Bret Adams and Thom Jurek, Rovi
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