Guitarist William Tyler assesses beauty and loss on ‘Modern Country’

William Tyler attributes the origins of his new album both to the incongruous musical diet of ’70s country and krautrock he ingested while driving on tour, and to what he drove past: “forgotten small towns, bleak countryside, old motels, abandoned diners.” The album, he says, is “a love letter to what we’re losing in America, to what we’ve already lost.” Those concerns show up in the titles of songs and in their particular inspirations; knowing this provides context, but isn’t necessary to appreciate Tyler’s guitar playing and the layered, textured beauty of his compositions. “Highway Anxiety” shimmers with melancholy and evocative locomotive persistence; “Gone Clear” travels from Tyler’s intricate fingerpicking to a barrage of chiming bells and back again. And when, at record’s end, “The Great Unwind” melds a murmuring guitar melody into sheeting electric squall, and then moves through bridging bird noises to the extended fade of what sounds like buoyant, loping highway music, it’s as if to say that, amid the decline, the beauty of the road trip remains.


ESSENTIAL “The Great Unwind“


Stuart Munro can be reached at