AJ Rosales makes the acoustic guitar seem so easy yet so complex at the same time. Putting out an acoustically-dominated album is not a lightweight decision. The strings want to fight back. The tones take a keen ear. Things could go pear-shaped in an instant, and a song could fall apart. A few probably have. More will follow. That is the nature of the struggle. But Rosales’s confidence and style make a bold and lasting statement. And when he nails it, he hits it out of the ballpark.
Manifestations take from a colorful palette of acoustic splendor and presents a breathtaking view of human fragility and celebration of the American curiosity. Painting hues of Alejandro Escovedo, Nick Drake, and John Fahey into Rosales’s universal appeal, Manifestations is comforting in the way a cup of coffee is comforting to the soul.
Rosales has found a way to get past the struggles and turbulence of song creation and gives us a pragmatic view of American life. Sometimes it is as absolute as in “Anthym.” Other times it is as abstract as “Solero.”
“Anthym” utilizes Fahey methodology circa 1971 to make a statement. A snippet of the National Anthem grounds us in foundational ideology, a psychedelic rippling effect that offers a mirage to the sounds of our heritage. It burns into “Disengage,” a song of cinematic proportions and a driving force that describes our current cultural dynamics that serve more for the sake of understanding. “I ascertain what is at stake,” he sings. The only answer is to disengage from the American cultural environment. The word burns into your mind as he repeats it over and over. He disengages. You begin to loathe the word. But in it, there is self-awareness and renewal. This is what the song is supposed to do. It is Rosales’s challenge to the listener.
“Solero” uses the one-note method as the soup base. Everything is seasoned from this—the rippled chords, the meandering melody, the dusty cadence. In a way, the song is an Americana daydream. On the other hand, it’s an elegant postmodern portrayal of cultural contemplation.
And then there is the beautiful “On The Cusp.” It’s sincerity overshadows anything else. The way a cello complements the guitar chords dancing around, it perfectly helps move the listener to the end of this intricate experience. “Snowflakes” leaves us with a modest back porch instrumental that quietly sends us on our way as if it was composed to be an afterthought. We sit in amazement.
AJ Rosales has composed a listener’s experience, showing us that it does not take bells or whistles to create a significant impact, only immaculate musicianship.
Tear It Apart
If Not Today
On The Cusp