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Amarillo City Limits

Hayden Pedigo’s ’Greetings from Amarillo’

By April 2017Comments

In 2015 Michael Hall wrote in Texas Monthly that “twenty-year-old Hayden Pedigo is making the most innovative, audacious music in the country” and then asked the inevitable question: “So why is he still in Amarillo?” Two years later, we have Pedigo’s answer: instead of leaving his hometown, he’s been writing its soundtrack. His new album, Greetings from Amarillo (Driftless Recordings), is a collection of ten instrumental and ambient tracks that vibrate intimately, ring out expansively, and resoundingly justify his staying put.

Much of Pedigo’s output falls into the American Primitive genre, a style of acoustic fingerpicking pioneered half a century ago by John Fahey. Like Fahey and the best of his stylistic heirs, Pedigo is a guitar virtuoso uninterested in fretboard gymnastics. Instead, on a song like “Left Foot,” his clacking fingers make roots music that’s propulsive and achingly pretty.

There’s no stuffing Pedigo into a genre box, though. Nearly half the album is made up of ambient compositions that feature no acoustic guitar whatsoever. The result is surprisingly cohesive; Pedigo’s songs may roam across genre borders, but they’re unified by Amarillo’s city limits. On guitar or synthesizer, he inhabits the same space: a low-end rumble lays down flat dirt, a note’s long decay opens a big sky, a creeping texture hints at weirdness on the edges.

Pedigo’s ability to refract his Great Plains backyard through abstract lenses puts him in the company of Terry Allen, the Lubbock legend who has long recast his Panhandle memories into outsider art. Which is why Allen’s spoken-word outro on Greetings feels like a coronation.  After thirty minutes of wordless sound, his shaking voice emerges to nail the album down: “It’s just motion, little honey; sirens in the dust, calling you home.”

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