Nathan Salsburg’s acoustic guitar playing will clean your brain

His Third LP is glorious.

June 05, 2018
Nathan Salsburg’s acoustic guitar playing will clean your brain Joan Shelley

Nathan Salsburg, who plays acoustic guitar like rocks do water in a stream and has collaborated with James Elkington on two perfect albums, will release his third solo LP this summer. Out July 20 via No Quarter (he's played, too, on their great albums with Joan Shelley), it's called Third and is his first absolutely-only-acoustic-guitar LP. Today we're debuting two tracks, "Timoney's" and "Impossible Air."


Listen to find yourself in a place of absolute calm, and read his thoughts below. His day job is curator of the Alan Lomax Archive, so basically anything he says about music, including his own, is interesting as hell. Pre-order now obviously!

Nathan Salsburg: It’s a truism that it’s more fun to play with others than by yourself. It took me a long time writing and playing music alone before figuring this out, but I was glad when I did, and especially glad to take a break from that solitary work, which can often feel like a slog.

After a few years luxuriating in the joy and relative ease of collaboration, I returned to solo guitar surprised to find that a lot of my previous over-seriousness of purpose had dissipated. I started asking less of compositions, no longer hellbent on shoving a dozen ideas into a single song, where three or four were satisfactory. It was fun playing alone again. Hopefully this record, born of that rediscovery, reflects that.

“Timoney’s” was inspired by the Liam O’Flaherty short story “Timoney’s Ass” (first published in 1947 as "A Matter of Freedom"), about a hard-driven donkey who goes free/feral after its cruel master’s death. The ass is absent from the title, but persists in the song, as opposed to the late Timoney.

“Impossible Air” was written one evening and next morning in and around Eeklo, Belgium, stitched around a memorably great dinner, a memorably terrible solo set, and a strange night’s sleep in a former cow-shed.

Nathan Salsburg’s acoustic guitar playing will clean your brain