Memorial by Rich HinmanRelease date: November 17, 2023
Label: Colorfield Records
Is the pedal steel guitar still caught up in the minds of listeners as the key instrument in the ‘regular’ country music, and nothing else?
Possibly, but quite a number of releases by a slew of artists, particularly those connected to the relatively new sub-genre of ambient country seem to disprove that idea, particularly those that venture beyond country music variants, including the ambient one.
Artists like Chuck Johnson and Suss are leaders in that respect, but new names keep coming up. One such is that of pedal steel guitarist Rich Hinman, as evidenced in his latest release Memorial.
Now, Hinman himself, as might be expected is a seasoned session hand who worked with, yes, country and Americana artists like k.d. lang, Sara Bareilles, Maren Morris, and Emily King, but on Memorial he has decided to go beyond what he did and does in his session work.
As was the case with some of his previous solo work, Hinman has a more genre-crossing approach, experimental, if you will, that goes beyond even ambient country, leaning more towards jazz and modern classical music.
That is somewhat evident in the choice of his collaborators here which includes drummer Mark Guiliana, bassist David Piltch, keyboardist Benny Bock, saxophonist Daniel Rotem, and the Section Quartet string quartet.
As Hinman explains, “I’ve written straightforward tunes and used them as vehicles for improvisation,” he says “even if the results haven’t exactly sounded like jazz”.
Yet on Memorial, music has a more structured content, with his pedal steel being just one of the elements, without really dominating the proceedings.
What we get then is an album of well-developed musical ideas that cross genres with such ease that you really forget about them.