Susan Alcorn

East meets country and western, and a whole lot more, on this Houston pedal-steel guitarist's debut solo album. As a member of Eugene Chadbourne's Ernest Tubb Memorial Band, Alcorn plays little that's recognizable as country or alt-country. The eight improvisational instrumentals on Uma pursue that exploratory spirit without sounding much like Chadbourne either. Instead, Alcorn draws on droning Indian ragas for "Uma's River Song of Love" and "The Royal Road/ Shambhala." "Dancing" skips along on a series of hypnotic, repetitive phrases, and the funereal "Kalimankou Denkou/ Thrace" progresses through sweet sitarlike whines, lilting passages, and harplike phrasing. "Monk Medley" opens bluesy ("Crepuscle for Nellie"), turns hard-bop ("Pannonica"), and soars out ("Groovin' High") before the album closes with a tantalizing snatch of "Amazing Grace." Alcorn doesn't ignore the melancholy mood that her instrument brings to country but applies elements of world music, jazz, avant-classical, and New Age to create sounds that defy classification.

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