In the Grain
In the Grain On his premiere recording, guitarist Darin Mahoney bridges a dark phase of C(rises) Major to a life of full-scale harmony November 3, 2008, Phoenix, AZ-Months after guitarist Darin Mahoney emerged from a medically induced coma he was still unable to form even the simplest chords with his fingers. And still, with that, Mahoney had to consider himself lucky: By all rights, and by his own doctor's admission, he shouldn't have been alive at all. Listeners will find that harrowing tale among the many facets of one artist's complex journey in the notes and tones on In the Grain (Rexomatic Productions), Mahoney's first full-length recording. On the CD's eight tracks-Confused, The Hunt, Woodland, Green, Alger Street, Calling Home, Tanglewood, and Top Down -Mahoney (playing the koa-and-western-red-cedar acoustic he built himself) offers an instrumental interpretation of a life that seemed irretrievably lost, but through intense struggle endured and ultimately flourished. Beginning in his high-school days, Mahoney was a guitar player and a rodeo rider. On the six string he started out with bluegrass tunes; in the rodeo ring he was a bareback rider. It wasn't too long before his music, and his life, became much more rock-and-roll electric. He worked hard and played hard from early on, which eventually led to a ruthless downfall. 'I partied much too much. I got addicted, wasted an important stretch of my life,' Mahoney says. 'There's an eight -year period in there that I think of as the Dark Time. Not everyone who has a spell like that comes out the other side. It was just luck that I did.' As it turned out, that exit led to a place that no one could have anticipated. In early 1996, not long after he had begun to straighten his life out, Mahoney was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. 'I was visiting my parents,' says Mahoney, 'and making some breakfast. I just passed out on the floor. I thought I had food poisoning or something. My Dad insisted on taking me to the hospital, which I didn't want to do. I'd never been in the hospital in my life. 'A nurse hooked me up to an IV in the emergency room, and the next thing I knew I was coming to and it was a week later. That's how I found out I had cancer. And it was extensive. The doctors told me it was terminal and I had three months to live.' Mahoney continues, 'I couldn't really accept what they were telling me. So my only question was whether I could keep playing guitar and riding horses. The doctors just looked at me and said, 'We're going to do our best to keep you comfortable.'' The first song on In the Grain, Confused, is 'one of my most heartfelt tunes,' says Mahoney. It was the first song he wrote about his ordeal. 'The song reflects the emotions I had to confront at the time. Sadness, acceptance, then, after my treatments, happiness and the ability to be honestly content with every day of my life.' Mahoney's route to his unlikely cure was not a simple one. It was nearly fatal, and necessitated his being put in a coma in order for his lungs to heal. While he was unconscious, his mother and father brought in music to play for their son. One of those recordings in particular, The Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit by Will Ackerman, wove it's way into Mahoney's consciousness. When he was finally awakened, a constant request Mahoney had of his nurses was that they keep hitting the play button on his CD player so he could listen to Ackerman's music. (Through a remarkable stroke of fortune, Ackerman wound up working with Mahoney in the studio during the pre-production of In the Grain.) During a long and difficult recovery period, after he was found to be in complete remission from his illness, Mahoney worked on getting his muscles, fingertips, and mind in shape to play guitar again. And that dedicated effort would lead to another significant undertaking: a five-month course of study at the Roberto-Venn School of Lutherie in Phoenix. Mahoney would come to learn to build the instruments he lived to play. Today, 12 years in remission, a healthy, spirited Darin Mahoney makes his living playing the songs he creates and creating the instruments for a thousand more songs to be played on. The deeply personal nature of the tunes on In the Grain, reflecting his emotions surrounding his family, his tribulations, and his sincere understanding of his healing-makes for an intense listening experience. But two songs - Green and Top Down-also offer a sense of the flat-out joy Mahoney's life has become. As he put it, 'Those songs are 'end-of-the-movie everyone waving as they drive into the sunset' songs.' In the Grain offers living proof that Darin Mahoney's talents as a guitar player remain exceptional and holds the promise that his musical fortunes will continue to evolve into ever deeper, more resonant levels in the future.