August 13, 2008
by Jordan Anne Karnes

Beckoning Landscapes

Derek Papa: I Will Get to You

Arno Records | Jun 2008

In the first chapter of East of Eden, John Steinbeck writes of mountains, of “beckoning mountains with a brown grass love.” He says these mountains are “full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother.”

Down in California, the mountains roll on in golden movement, a camels’ fat body paralyzed by sun. The hillsides’ crevices flow fluid as a folk singer’s drawl, rivers of inverse light. Derek Papa has such a drawl. His tunes yawn and waft in gracious gestures, as familiar and as grand as the brown grass hills of his home state. Derek Papa does not make music that is out of this world; rather it is raised from the rich soil of a dry land. It is not dazzling and dizzying. It is not a rocket ship to new galaxies. He makes music from this world, robust with tensions of love and responsibility—music that does not propel, music that roams.

In his new album, I Will Get to You, guitars wan slow and wax heavy. The songs are simple, a Neil Young sort of folk, steadied by acoustic rhythm and driven by gorgeous guitar licks. While Get to You is consistently mellow thanks to Papa’s voice, hinted with an earnest rounded twang, there are moments of certain golden beauty: guitar solos that pierce and stir something previously dormant.

There’s no better example than the album’s first track, “Space For Your Laughter.” The song starts with a reckoning, coarse-electric sound that confirms everything that is to follow. “The mountain is awaking now, I’ve found a decent clear,” Papa sings. “Some good wood and space for your laughter, to brighten this mean old world. You’re closer to the sun, and there’s no turning back.” The song rolls on along to the beat of a good drum, the stream of a brassy harmonica, and the wisdom of an amplified guitar.

And so it goes. Songs are broken and weaved together again at the hand of Papa’s guitar. “Ladybug” , a slower acoustic-lyrical track, is finally ignited with the strike of percussion and taken home with a guitar solo that stretches out over the repetition of a warm chorus.

Second to guitar on this album are Papa’s lyrics, a set of quiet stories unfolding to swaying tunes. “The rig rolls down the Interstate 5, there’s some good talking inside,” he continues in “Space For Your Laughter”, “The star shoots silent above us, the plates roll over the road. We’re out of control. And there’s no turning back.” He speaks of love soberly, softly, but with determination. “I’m gonna get to you,” he sings on the album’s title track, “when the river is fast and rushing and high, with bullets flying by, I will get to you.”

Get To You is a well-arranged album, simple enough to feel natural but complimented by a variety of accompaniment: a stock of good vocals, prattling pianos and mellotrons. Like any worthwhile piece of anything, it opens itself upon each recurring listen. It has the ability to absorb moments of the listener’s landscape while presenting a glimpse of its own inviting brown grass hillsides.

Derek Papa's Website

Tags: San Diego, Derek Papa, I Will Get to You

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