Visions of the Country is a great treasure, a shining example of what soaring artistic heights and ecstatic expression are possible when a musician (in Robbie Basho’s words) “puts soul first”. I have heard many people extol Basho’s virtuosic guitar playing, but strangely little praise of his luminous words. I regard Visions of the Country as a grand poetic work on par with the spiritual poetry of history’s greatest mystics (I’m thinking of Rumi and Hafiz in particular). In the same way that these Sufi poets referred to God as their “Beloved”, Basho’s songs on this record are essentially love songs to his “beloved”: the wild lands of the great American west. In “Blue Crystal Fire”, Basho sings:
Smooth singing sunshine: wrap your blanket around me my love Fast flowing waterfall: wash my tears away my love
Deer with silver antlers: come and play with me my love
Basho’s love is a mystical affair where the boundaries of self and other fall away. Outer and inner wildernesses weave together as Basho himself becomes an inseparable aspect of the landscape, illuminated in “Green River Suite”:
From the center of the Earth To the center of the sky There am I
Robbie Basho’s mystical experience is not simply expressed in these songs, it is rather transmitted by virtue of his transcendent poetry and his other wondrous gifts: his melodic sensitivity, his extraordinary mastery of his instruments, and his supernaturally emotive and powerful voice.
I am truly grateful for the beautiful work of Robbie Basho, which touches me as an artist, as a passionate inhabitant of the wilds of the west, and as a human being. It is a tremendous honor for me to reissue Visions of the Country, to contribute humbly to Basho’s legacy. It is work that I do with a full heart, believing that this music is good for the Earth. I hope it brings joy and wonder into your life, ye new listeners. And I hope that Basho, in whatever form he may now be in, is glad that these songs live on, and that he can feel our gratitude as he “[follows] the Milky Way, home”.
Big Sur, California – 2013