They call the place Valle Crucis: sometimes you have to decide. Three streams come together in the rolling mountains outside Boone, North Carolina, forming the shape of a cross. Someplace along one of those streams is an old farmhouse under draping willows where, wafting from the upstairs windows, songs might be heard.
25 to 40, the 2017 all-instrumental release by Luke Gullickson’s Golconda project, was a wordless hymn to the deserts of New Mexico, its title a reference to the enormous cross of two freeways that cut the state into quadrants. Valle Crucis is a more intimate affair, trading the vastness of Rocky Mountain rifts and ranges for the cloistered, ensconced feeling of the Appalachian highlands. The lyrics reach from myth to personal reflection; the music, warm and simple, is all about friendship.
These five songs were written by Gullickson, and produced and recorded by his longtime collaborator Ben Hjertmann, at the latter’s studio in the titular valley. When sympathetic people and circumstances converge for a moment, we count ourselves fortunate. When it’s time to part ways, we might say something like, “I hope our paths cross again soon.” Outside, the sky is shifting. The moon rises over the valley.