Rick Genge’s sublime solo album “Lotusland” conjures up early Carlos Santana virtuosity with a jazz-influenced, smooth Latin feel that is primarily acoustic and utterly irresistible. These songs implore you to bring out another pitcher and get comfortable on some sunny patio with good friends; maybe even bust a move en route to the barbecue for that third kabob (not that anyone’s counting.) Genge’s impressive multi-instrumental performances are infused with the same joyful genius he’s brought to his previous albums but this time, his melodic solos soar over sensuous world music beats, giving Lotusland the steamy, dreamy atmosphere essential for summer romance; it verily demands dancing until the stars come out… so why fight it?
The album’s dark colours surface in the rise and fall of minor chords that provide a subtle yet satisfying gravitas. Lotusland is an album you’ll have on steady rotation. In fact, it could easily become the soundtrack to your life.
But perhaps I’m overstating the possibilities. I can only say for certain that as Rick’s adoring wife, I have lived and breathed this album for the past five months and although I may have pleaded for silence on more than one occasion, I knew from the get go that this project was not only essential for Rick’s sanity during a difficult time but also that it is undoubtably his masterwork; an album of such quality and beauty that I feel profoundly privileged to have witnessed its creation.
In 2013, Rick’s father Charles Genge was slowing down. A lifetime as a master carpenter had led him to the fine art of guitar making and even in his 88th year, he finished two more acoustic guitars (#’s 14 and 15) working out of his modest apartment in New Westminster, BC. By the fall, Charles’ failing health made in necessary for him to relocate 100 km east to an assisted-living home in Chilliwack where Rick could visit him on a daily basis and ensure his well-being. It was at this time that a fortuitous conversation took place around the table of Vladimir and Tanya, new friends whose fresh-baked bread and home-made spirits provided the perfect prelude to Vlad’s suggestion that Rick record an instrumental song inspired by the classical guitar Charles made for Rick those many years ago; and so the first of 12 songs was written and “Lotusland” came to light and life.
As a young man of 18, Rick was already an avid, performing rock musician; playing electric guitar in the style of his heroes Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. Rick’s mother Sylvia was a landed immigrant, an Englishwoman who settled in Kingston Ontario after her stint in the Canadian army where she met her husband-to-be Charles, who had also served his country and was now a journeyman carpenter. With their enthusiastic support, Rick enrolled in the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto where he studied intensely with the classical guitarist Norbert Kraft and began playing in the traditional Spanish style of acoustic, nylon-stringed guitar, writing original songs in this rich vein as a direct result.
Flash forward 40 years and imagine a folder full of these early songs, just waiting for the right time to manifest. Now consider the music solely rearranged, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Rick in early 2014 at his home studio Spiderlodge. In 5 short, intense months, “Lotusland” was born at long last.
I suppose it goes without saying that the partners of musicians need to cultivate an appreciation for the dedication that the art of making music demands. Countless hours and precious resources are spent as one’s craft is developed and then refined to the point where the music made becomes worthy of sharing with the world. More often than not, the notes ring out into the universe and fade without any fanfare whatsoever but sometimes a song will speak to the heart of a listener and in that exquisite moment in time, the sounds transcend personal expression and become a shared experience that defies description. These are the moments that songwriters live for. In hindsight, we clearly see that these few and far-between connections were the goal all along, though the journey to this destination was almost certainly a lonely one at first.
I met Rick in 2004 when I returned to my hometown of Chilliwack and found myself in dire need of guitar lessons. As luck would have it, we were both single at the time and our shared love of music, barbecue and Bart the Shih Tzu made falling in love as easy as falling off a cliff; an apt metaphor when you consider that by 2008, we had hurtled toward married life and were happily writing and recording together, forever changed by the making of our home and the founding of Spiderlodge Studio and Music School.
“Songs From Spider Lodge”(2006), “The Secret Language of Birds”(2011) and “Mighty Fine Time”(2013) were each met with a peculiar combination of interest and indifference, thanks to a music industry in crisis and flux due to internet sharing that made making a living as a recording artist improbable if not impossible. The upside was that with virtually no hope of commercial success came the freedom to produce music that we loved for our own reasons, songs that we felt were worth sharing even though we figured that our audience was likely going to be made up of friends and family rather than the masses we had once aspired to reach. It was a strange victory to realize that without financial backers or artist management, we were without restriction and beyond market influence for the first time in our professional lives. It made us downright giddy, even as we came to terms with the fact that we are highly unlikely to retire on royalty payments anytime soon.
And so we settled in to a life of teaching music and coaching the next generation of Canadian performers; producing albums for ourselves and others whom we felt worthy of our time and energy, which was waning as it does with the realities of middle-age (yes, we plan to live to 110…please refrain from doing the math). Truthfully, our lives are rich beyond measure when you consider that even though our dream of stardom has not yet materialized (we’re nothing if not persevering) we get up each morning, run errands and pay bills, then make all kinds of music throughout days filled with our beloved pets and our overgrown country garden in a community that includes our students, our dear friends and our small family. It’s a beautiful life and we’re thankful for it.
Rick dedicates “Lotusland” to his Mom, whom he lost in 2001 and to his Dad whose passing at the end of March made the making of this album both a welcome distraction and a kind of music therapy. The guitars you hear played on the album are the ones made by Charles (with the exception of the dobro) and so whenever we listen to Lotusland, we are reminded of the great gift that music is, especially when it is shared with the ones we love.