In 1974, Oregon native Bob Desper released an album called New Sounds. A world-weary folk record, soaked with reverb and glorious open chords strummed on a Martin acoustic guitar, New Sounds came and went, released on Rose City Sound, a small Portland-based Christian music label. Around 500 copies of the album were pressed and sent into the world, its plaintive choruses reaching for arms to hold them. And that was that. But over time, the record began to take on a mythical quality amongst folk purists, many of whom gravitated towards Desper's warm, soulful voice. Nestled in vintage shops and old record stores the world over, New Sounds became a highly collectible piece, commanding hundreds of dollars upon its purchase. And now, thirty-five years later, New Sounds is being officially reissued for the first time on CD.
Blind from the age of ten from an accident that caused his optic nerve to hemorrhage, Desper spent his childhood moving around, from Virginia to California and eventually settling in Portland, gravitating towards the Christian community through his love of music and budding spirituality. This scene provided Bob with the opportunity to meet other musicians, eventually forming a band called Eleventh Hour Sounds, who played regularly around Portland and Eugene at churches and coffee houses. He ended up recording a 7" on his own in 1972, at the age of twenty-one, called "Dry Up Those Tears." The song is lush, with references to one of Bob's favorite musicians at the time, George Harrison, but still retains traces of the sparse darkness that were to come through New Sounds. When the song made some minor waves locally, Bob decided to record a full album, which turned out to be very different from his first few songs.
Recorded at age twenty-three, New Sounds is a sparse, dark, beautiful record, made in one take, with a few of the songs improvised on the spot in the recording studio. The album showcases Bob's deft guitar playing, mixing beautiful open chords with delicate finger-picking, the result of being a guitarist since the age of twelve. The album is a snapshot of a moment in the life of a young blind man struggling towards solace and peace. It was a record crafted as a sort of ministry; Bob hoped it would be of help to others. With a tenderness, a melancholy and even a liberal dashing of hope, New Sounds is folk music at its purist: music for the people, music of shared experience, music of powerful emotion, music that changes and music that heals.