With the release of Unnamed Lands, guitarist Bert Lams and Chapman Stick player Tom Griesgraber celebrate the completion of one of the most inspired projects either musician has ever been a part of. Fourteen original instrumental tracks tie together with artwork and text to tell the adventures of a North American wagon train journey through one traveler's personal experiences circa 1840.
“What started as a simple idea to make an album together, changed course dramatically,” says Lams. “As we were working together, the original pieces seemed to tie in with a story, or a concept, and a theme emerged: Prairie Travelers in the 1800’s, making their way west, looking for better fortunes.’’ “The more time we spent writing, the more the project took on a life of its own,” continues Griesgraber, “The story presented itself as if it was just meant to be there.”
Much of the new material grew from recorded improvisations at Griesgraber’s studio in Encinitas, CA. As Tom describes it, “We would hit record and improvise for any length of time, then go back later and listen to see if there were any ideas that grabbed our attention. We would then use our favorite moments as starting points for new pieces, combining, refining and developing them both in rehearsals and on tours which criss-crossed across the US for several years.” Along the way the two performed in and traveled through many of the same areas implied in the story and a musical style seemed to emerge that could almost be described as “Progressive Americana.” “It’s really a blend of our personalities and everything Bert and I do. There is a strong progressive rock influence, with lots of odd meters and adventurous sounds, but it’s balanced by a highly melodic and folk-like approach and even some classical styled modulations.”
A member of the California Guitar Trio, guitarist Bert Lams is an honors graduate of The Royal Conservatory of Music in his native Brussels, Belgium. His affinity for jazz and rock in addition to classical music, led him to continue his studies and eventually tour with English guitarist Robert Fripp, before founding the CGT. Griesgraber graduated Summa Cum Laude from Berklee College of Music as a guitar major, before discovering The Chapman Stick in 1997. Combining six guitar strings and six bass strings with a two handed tapping technique more like playing piano, the Stick allows the performer to play bass lines, chords and melodies simultaneously with a variety of sounds. The two have been touring together since 2004.
One of the first to hear Unnamed Lands was Stick inventor Emmett Chapman. “I am struck by its sheer beauty and musical sophistication,” he writes, “I’m also very impressed with the whole production - it’s a big thing (and an important musical project for The Stick).” Anil Prasad (Innerviews) writes, “Unnamed Lands is an exhilirating, meticulously-crafted audio journey that captures these engaging virtuosos in peak form. Highly recommended.”
Much like the original prairie travelers, Griesgraber and Lams have taken a leap of faith on their musical journey. “In an age where downloading singles is more the norm, we’ve gone the opposite direction and said ‘here is a body of work that stands on its own.’ Something continually drove us to pursue the music to this point. It’s a unified whole and that’s something we’re quite proud of.”