John Gorka
So Dark You See

By Mike Thomas

Nearly 30 years and countless defining moments into a career that took root in the fertile early-’80s folk scene, John Gorka pays fond tribute to those formative years on So Dark You See, a mini-festival’s worth of traditional shadings joined with contemporary sensibilities and songcraft. Gorka’s thoughtful mining of the past for renewed inspiration takes various forms, from his sterling efforts to set the timeless verse of Robert Burns and pacifist poet William Stafford to music (on “A Fond Kiss” and “Where No Monuments Stand,” respectively), to a poignantly rendered cover of “I Think of You,” written by the fabled Utah Phillips, a pivotal figure in the thriving folk world of a generation ago. He also revisits the blues standard “Trouble in Mind” and evokes the seminal field recordings of a bygone era with the solo banjo cut “Fret Not,” which, along with the rollicking, raga-flavored guitar workout “Fret One,” comprises the first pair of instrumental tracks Gorka has released on record. Always one to honor his origins by reaffirming the bold artistic reach of his influences in a thoroughly modern context, Gorka also faithfully delivers a host of painstakingly crafted originals (including the standout tracks “Whole Wide World” and “Ignorance and Privilege”) that reflect deep-seated compassion and engagement in a weary world that can’t ever seem to get enough of either.

(Red House Records,

This CD review also appears in Acoustic Guitar,
Issue #205, January 2010