Album of the Week: Music by William Eaton (1978)

Driving drifting through the lonesome sandstone canyons as the sun slanted away, west. You, too, were on your way.

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Private press albums can be hidden gems or unremarkable projects. William Eaton’s debut of improvised instrumental guitar passages definitely falls into the former category. As soon as I heard the first track here I knew this was absolutely golden. After a bit of a warmup, Eaton reaches a brilliant harmonic theme that recalls the storied greatness of John Fahey – who was, I suppose, a contemporary of Eaton’s!

Eaton came from a family of bankers in Lincoln, Nebraska, but after attending Stanford headed to Arizona and ended up, according to Ultravillage, “living out of his car, roaming the desert and eating mesquite pods and cactus fruit.” He began designing his own guitars, including a 26 string and double neck quadraphonic electric guitar.

Given the open and wandering, almost ascetic lifestyle Eaton led, it’s not surprising that this album is full of ambient space and warm, gentle tones. It’s become my recent comfort album, and resonates as a night-time listening companion the way Scott Tuma’s Hard Again (2001) did for me in 2020 (when, god knows, I needed it).

Track 7B was sampled to great effect by DJ Shadow on 2002’s “Fixed Income”, so props to him for knowing about this one 20 years ago, before it was even reissued. I mean, the guy made Endtroducing after all, so that checks out. Eaton continued to record and release music, though I haven’t yet heard other work of his that captures the same subtle beauty as Music. He co-founded a luthiery (guitar construction) school in Phoenix, Arizona that he now directs.

Listen to Music of William Eaton on Bandcamp or Spotify.

You can see some of Eaton’s incredible self-designed guitars here.

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