The Ghost Chords of Jamie Stillway

And a mini-playlist of her ambient guitar work

Jamie Stillway is one of the most quietly inventive guitarists recording today. Her mix of fingerpicking and effects-pedal work charts a course between understated folk and atmospheric soundscape — or more to the point, she forges a modern folk that is a deeply intertwined combination of the two. While her full-on ambient forays are especially evocative, even her most seemingly straightforward efforts benefit from a subtle employment of spaciousness that marks her music as implicitly electronic.

Stillway’s most recent album is City Static, and on it the backporch pace and space-music echo mean that at any moment she is in essence accompanying whatever she herself just moments earlier played: The notes proceed as a sequence of combinations, ghost chords, decaying cascades in slow motion. Mixed amid the longer pieces on City Static are four interludes. While their modest sound and scope (they range in length from 45 seconds to 1:11) might suggest them as side matter, they are the pieces from which the album takes its title. Each is a room-tone miniature, a sonic snapshot of the ether in which Stillway’s more traditional is generally staged. To focus the listener’s each on these four pieces, I made a little YouTube playlist of just those items. (And I’ll be adding them to my Stasis Report ambient playlist on Spotify this coming weekend.)

Here’s to hoping that Stillway will record a full-length album of just ambient work in the future. In the meanwhile, if the likes of John Fahey, Michael Hedges, Bill Frisell, Ava Mendoza, Steve Tibbetts, and Andrew Weathers are your idea of electric guitar, then definitely check out City Static.

The playlist I made is at The full City Static album is available at More from Stillway, who is based in Portland, Oregon, at (I first came upon Stillway’s music thanks to the coverage by the magazine Fretboard Journal.)

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