On his solo debut album, Heaven and Earth, John Gregorius finds a meeting ground between Windham Hill fingerstyle guitar and ambient music. The heritage artists of Windham Hill were all influenced by 70s progressive rock sounds, and so was John Gregorius, especially the pastoral side of groups like Genesis with the finger-style playing of Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips and Mike Rutherford. John Gregorius cites them, but you can also hear the influence of Windham Hill's Will Ackerman and Michael Hedges in his playing.
However, though it has some nice solo acoustic tracks, what really makes Heaven and Earth rise above are the ambient landscapes where Gregorius sets his tunes. Enoesque landscapes ride under ‘Mercy,’ surrounding his finger-style guitar and electric, country-tinged lead with a hazy aura. A William Orbit style sequencer pattern traces the outline of ‘Pearls of Great Price,’ which at its core is a meeting of Ambient Americana and eastern music. Udu drum and a guitar lead that sits between languid country blues and Indian raga turns into an east-west fusion.
John Gregorius is a musician of eclectic tastes, but with a unified vision. You can tell he's listening to acoustic players, but also has his fingers in rock and ambient music. A track called ‘Secret to Light’ sets plaintive acoustic guitar in an atmosphere of growling, shoegazer rock textures and rolling drums played with mallets that come straight off the launch pad of Pink Floyd's ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.’ On the other hand, Leo Song's rubbery fretless bass sound had me thinking Michael Manring had slipped in.
Echoes of early music by Steve Tibbetts might come to mind while listening to Heaven and Earth. Gregorius doesn't think in Tibbetts's epic scale, but his mixture of acoustic and electronic, psychedelic and pastoral, world and folk music recalls albums like Yr.
Heaven and Earth is a subtly intoxicating album that seems comfortable, while at the same time taking you to new destinations each time you put it on.
- John Diliberto, Echoes CD of the Month