Guitarist John Stowell has spent two decades recording for Seattle's Origin records, collaborating with artists such as saxophonists Dave Liebman and Michael Zilber, drummer John Bishop, bassist Jeff Johnson and guitarist Ulf Bandgren. His work with the band Scenes—with Bishop and Johnson, and (twice) saxophonist Rick Mandyck—is particularly noteworthy. Bassist Dan Dean—with a sparser discography than Stowell's—has made more of a name for himself as a producer and audio and recording engineer for the label; but his status as a recording artist in his own right took a big jump forward in his 2017 Origin Records outing Songs Without Words, a solo effort featuring his bass and vocals (mostly overdubbed into a choir) that earned a spot of one of the year's best "beyond category" recordings.
Rain Painting pairs the two veteran Origin Records guys for more innovation—Stowell's acoustic and electric guitars, Dean's acoustic and electric basses and, again, his wordless vocals, along with some deft drum programing from Dean, to create an alluring sound that makes another category of its own, much in the way Songs Without Words did. All compositions come from Stowell's pen; the vocal arrangements are Dean's, as he creates a sound that brings the Beach Boys' vocal layerings influenced by a church choir to mind when he overdubs, or (un-overdubbed) a hipster monk who has ditched the Gregorian chants for the sound of Chet Baker's vocalese, circa 1958, on the trumpeter's Chet Baker Sings: It Could Happen to You (Riverside Records).
It is an album that sounds in-the-moment and effortless, but in fact it was a painstakingly constructed work of art, with Stowell laying down his acoustic guitar tracks first, followed by Dean layering in his vocals, and on into Stowell coming back in to add guitar solos and rhythm guitar parts, leading into Dean's background vocal constructions, bass additions and virtual drum parts.
The results are spontaneous, joyful and life-affirming, showcasing Stowell's wide-ranging guitar artistry, and Dan Dean's sound shaping and innovative tone layering and designing. Go to the top of the class, guys.