Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Remembering Jack

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

On November 20, 15 days ago, I saw Jack Rose’s final performance in NYC. I first saw Jack on March 11, 2004 at Washington Square Church on W. 4th St. He graciously contributed to three compilations on Tompkins Square, and over the years we stayed in touch. Jack stayed on my couch a couple times, played with my older daughter Emma, and sorted through my record collection. He knew all the nuances of all of the different versions of all my John Fahey early pressings. He’d usually send me an email invite when he was coming to NYC to play. I remember early on he picked me up at the Phili train station and we went back to his house, of course we rifled through the records, and later he performed at a Fishtown space where Harris Newman played as well. I hooked Jack up with Peter Walker and they toured. I remember his gig with Michael Chapman at Knitting Factory, and his one with Bridget St. John at Tonic. He played a show I organized at Housing Works in NYC with Glenn Jones, Sean Smith, and Max Ochs. I flew him in for a Tompkins Square show at SXSW one year. Earlier this year he contacted me to possibly put his new record out. I am so grateful to have worked with him some.

Jack was a sweet person. He would always let you know what was on his mind, even if it was not particularly what you wanted to hear. His vast knowledge of pre-war blues and post-war guitar was immense. His playing felt like it channeled through him from somewhere else. At times it seemed effortless. Jack was an experimental player but he was also very formal, disciplined and traditional as well.

At the last show, I got to slip Jack a new gospel comp I put out, and he gave me his new album with the Black Twigs. After the set I gave him a hug and said see you next time. We exchanged emails a few days ago – he said he really dug the gospel set, and I said what a joy it was to see him play, and how much I enjoyed the Twigs. I am really grateful that I had that interaction that now feels like closure, whereas I am sure many many people would have liked to hug him or say goodbye somehow.

I remember one long conversation we had about his trajectory as a player years ago. He said when Fahey died, he and other musicians said “Now what?”. I’m sure plenty of folks will now pose the same question about Jack. He leaves behind a fantastic body of work, and a legacy that is indeed larger than life.

- Josh Rosenthal, NYC

Fire in My Bones : Raw, Rare & Otherworldly African-American Gospel, 1944-2007

Friday, October 2nd, 2009


Almost 4 hours of music on 3 discs – super-compelling, undiluted, stripped-down gospel!

Portland & Seattle Record Release events :

Sunday January 17, 8PM – Late
PORTLAND OR
VALENTINE’S: 232 SW Ankeny St Portland, OR 97253 (503) 248-1613
All star all gospel DJ session — Mike McGonigal DJ’s alongside
Portland’s very finest: DJ Hwy 7, DJ Worms, DJ Beyonda Doubt.
Admission: Free

Friday Jan 22, 6 – 8PM
SEATTLE WA
FRYE ART MUSEUM: 704 Terry Avenue Seattle, Washington 98104 (206) 622-9250
Mike McGonigal DJ’ing hip-hop + gospel to accompany the Opening
Reception for “Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History”
Admission: for members/ by invite only

Saturday Jan. 23, 1 – 6PM
SEATTLE WA
WALL OF SOUND RECORDS: 315 East Pine Street Seattle, WA 98122-2028
(206) 441-9880 / www.wosound.com
‘Fire In My Bones’ CD Party — Celebrating the release of the 4 hour
compilation with five hours straight of rare + raw gospel DJ’ed by
Mike McG.

The majority of this music has never been reissued on CD, or in any other form (most tracks were originally released on regional independent labels). Most post-WWII compilations of African-American gospel music naturally concentrate on the astounding quartet and solo vocalist sounds made during the music’s Golden Age. Fire In My Bones attempts to address and collect more neglected sounds from that era (and on to the present day). Dozens of traditions are represented. Some go back hundreds of years while others seem to have been arrived at as soon as the tape began to roll. Field recordings and studio tracks are all mashed together, with solo performances next to congregational recordings, hellfire sermons next to afterlife laments. Leon Pinson, Elder & Sister Brinson & the Brinson Brothers, Grant & Ella, Straight Street Holiness Group, Theotis Taylor, Brother & Sister W B Grate — these artists will now be just a little less obscure.

Fire In My Bones provides a small peek at the incredible diversity and power of post-war black gospel. Much of this music is raw, distorted and might sound a bit strange. But it is not presented as a novelty freak show or as “outsider music.” This is gospel – which we must always remember translates as “the good news” – as it has been sung and performed in tiny churches and large programs, from rural Georgia to urban Los Angeles. It is clearly among the most vibrant, playful, beautiful and emotionally charged music in the world.

Produced by Mike McGonigal. Package by Susan Archie. Available everywhere Oct. 27th.

Frank Farifield’s Debut Album on CD/LP/DL 9.29.09

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

“A young Californian who sings and plays as someone who’s crawled out of the Virginia mountains carrying familiar songs that in his hands sound forgotten: broken lines, a dissonant drone, the fiddle or the banjo all percussion, every rising moment louder than the one before it.”
— Greil Marcus

California-based fiddle, guitar, and banjo player, and ardent 78 collector Frank Fairfield has made his living as a musician, often found playing on the streets of Los Angeles. Handpicked by Fleet Foxes to open their U.S. tour last year, Frank released a 7″ on Tompkins Square and recorded his self-titled debut album. His 7″ won over tough critics and purists like Grammy winning producer Chris King (Charley Patton, People Take Warning box set), Phil Alexander (Mojo) and Greil Marcus, to name a few.

From Liner Notes by John Tottenham:

“Few questions can be satisfactorily answered about Frank Fairfield, mostly because he keeps to himself. He seems to be at once very open to share his insights, but yet in no way willing to give away his secrets. He was born in the San Joaquin Valley of California. He speaks of his grandfather leaving Texas to pick crops around the country, a constant traveler, a musician, who eventually “got religion” and settled in Kettleman City, Kings County as a pastor. Dust storms, tumbleweeds, cotton crops. . . this imagery has been richly cultivated in Fairfield’s young mind. Somewhere along the road Frank Fairfield finds himself and begins to play his grandfather’s old fiddle, picks up the banjo and gitbox, and starts playing the tunes of old with great conviction, learning many songs from the collection of rural gramophone records he has hungrily hunted down.”

Red Fox Chasers review by Amanda Petrusich

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Excepting those preternaturally drawn to trawling auctions and flea markets for old crates of 78s, most traditional country fans haven’t heard much of the Red Fox Chasers, a four-man string band from the northwestern corner of North Carolina, deep in the Appalachian mountains. I’m Going Down to North Carolina is the first complete anthology of the band’s work, which consists of less than 40 sides and a handful of bootlegging skits, recorded between 1928 and 1931. It’s a raucous, revelatory collection of old-time mountain music. The four neighbors and pals – vocalist and harmonica player Bob Cranford, vocalist and banjo-strummer Paul Miles, guitarist A.P. Thompson, and fiddler Guy Brooks – sing, strum and wail with high, Appalachian aplomb.

The band’s biography is riddled with folksy details — Miles’ first banjo was made from a meal sifter! Brooks bought his fiddle with money he saved up from selling hand-collected chestnuts for a dollar a bushel! They all learned to sing at a two-week shape-note singing tutorial led by an itinerant teacher! — but the music transcends any aw-shucks trappings. A mix of minstrel tunes, Tin Pan Alley cuts, disaster songs, ballads and tracks made more famous by Charlie Poole (“May I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight, Mister?”), the Carter Family (“Little Sweetheart, Pal of Mine”), and Uncle Dave Macon (“Sweet Bye and Bye”), I’m Going Down to North Carolina is a comprehensive introduction to string band music, and a testament to the Chasers’ dexterity and glee. Like any good mountain band, there’s a healthy tension between the sacred and the profane, and the band’s liquor-soaked “Virginia Bootleggers” – sung to the tune of “The River of Jordan,” an old gospel song – even got poor Guy Brooks kicked out of his church. Which is possibly the highest endorsement of all.

Red Fox Chasers out now ! Record Release Events in NYC

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Ben Reynolds – How Day Earnt Its Night

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Tompkins Square has amassed a formidable catalog of acclaimed acoustic guitar recordings, from reissues of seminal works by Robbie Basho, Richard Crandell and Harry Taussig to contemporary masters James Blackshaw, Peter Walker and Brad Barr. The label’s ‘Imaginational Anthem Vols.1-3′ guitar anthology received 4 1/2 stars in All Music Guide, with AMG’s Thom Jurek stating, “These are all essential recordings.”

Next up is Ben Reynolds, an English solo steel string guitarist and songwriter. In his solo instrumental works, he draws upon the vast well of musical inspiration native to the British Isles as well as that found across the Atlantic and beyond.

Outside of Ben’s solo work, he is a member of Glasgow-based songsters Trembling Bells, whose debut album ‘Carbeth’ on London label Honest Jon’s has received ecstatic praise from the likes of Joe Boyd and Will Oldham.

‘How Day Earnt Its Night’ consolidates his interest in British and American folk guitar traditions in concise and intensely melodic pieces as well as longer, expressionist improvisations. The intricacies of British guitar luminaries such as Bert Jansch and Davy Graham are found alongside the stark grandeur of John Fahey’s ‘American primitive guitar’ stylings.

A Broken Consort – “Box Of Birch”

Monday, April 20th, 2009

PRAISE:

“Given electronic media’s inability to slake modern consumer thirst, it’s no surprise that many are returning to heavy, tactile forms of recorded music. Alongside the return of vinyl is the growth in private press companies releasing limited-runs. Top of the game is Lancashire’s Richard Skelton, whose Sustain-Release label has produced magic boxes of spindles, leaves, poems, and densely layered post-classical recordings with cello, piano and accordion, referencing everyone from Arvo Part to Blind Willie Johnson.” – MOJO

“haunting and sublime”
- The Independent (UK)

“heart-wrenching”
- Wire

“Once you add the backstory and the passing thought of A Box Of Birch as a coffin, the chills double”
- Stereogum

“A fluid composition of strings, chimes and some cloudy atmospherics”
- Pitchfork

Richard Skelton is an artist from Lancashire in the UK. He started his Sustain-Release Private Press in 2005 as a commemorative tribute to his late wife Louise, with the intention of publishing her artwork alongside his own musical offerings. Since its inception he has released a slew of raw, beautiful recordings presented in lovingly-assembled, individualised editions.

Operating under a variety of guises, including Heidika, Carousell, Harlassen and Clouwbeck, Skelton creates powerful, instrumental music out of densely-layered acoustic guitar, bowed strings, piano, mandolin and accordion, often laced with delicate, shimmering percussion. The result is something utterly unique – a music which is both life-affirming and yet etched with memory and loss, evoking equal parts Arvo Part and Ry Cooder, Nick Drake and Henryk Gorecki.

It is with A Broken Consort, perhaps, that Skelton most-assuredly draws these elements together, creating an ever-changing drift of rich textures and interleaved melody that effortlessly evokes the landscapes which inspired it. Box Of Birch, his second album in this guise, was originally published in a boxed edition that contained, among other things, birch twigs collected from the West Pennine Moors. For Skelton these things act as a synecdoche for the landscape itself, a physical connection to the places in which much of his music is recorded. In this new edition for Tompkins Square, Skelton has created an exclusive series of artworks which draw on the hidden histories of the English landscape, and their narratives of displacement and loss. The result is something which perfectly complements the music whilst adding another dimension, providing a fuller picture of the artist’s vision.

Available on CD, DL, and heavy vinyl LP

Peter Walker Releases ‘Long Lost Tapes 1970′

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009


Guitarist Peter Walker came up in the Cambridge MA and Greenwich Village folk scenes of the Sixties. He recorded two albums for the Vanguard label in the late Sixties in a style best described as American folk-raga. He studied with Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, and was Dr. Timothy Leary’s musical director, organizing music for the LSD advocate’s “celebrations”.

Peter Walker’s 1967 debut album, Rainy Day Raga, features one of the first studio appearances by jazz flautist Jeremy Steig, as well as guitarist Bruce Langhorne, who recorded with Bob Dylan and many others. The album is a gentle and beautiful fusion of Eastern and Western musical traditions, and one of the earliest examples of a style explored by Sandy Bull several years earlier. A second album, Second Poem to Karmela or, Gypsies Are Important (1969) found Walker going even deeper into Indian instrumentation, playing sarod and sitar. During this time, Peter played or was associated with such musicians as Lowell George, Fred Neil, Karen Dalton, Tim Hardin, and Joan Baez, among many others.

A Raga for Peter Walker was released on Tompkins Square 37 years later, in 2006, featuring four new tracks from Peter along with original, previously unreleased compositions by revered contemporary guitarists Steffen Basho-Junghans, James Blackshaw, Greg Davis, Shawn David McMillen, Thurston Moore, and Jack Rose. More a tip of the hat than a “tribute” album, these players all share an appreciation for a gifted musician whose small yet amazing body of work still resonates. Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance) also cites him as a major inspiration, stating, “Peter was actually a bigger influence on my acoustic playing than John Fahey or Robbie Basho.”

Walker settled in upstate New York in the early Seventies. In more recent years, he has developed an intense interest in flamenco guitar and, through regular trips to Spain, has been accepted into the flamenco’s exclusive musical elite. The fruits of these efforts are on full display on his first album since 1969, Echo of My Soul, released in 2008 on Tompkins Square.

Long Lost Tapes 1970 is a revelation. Featuring Peter on electric and acoustic guitar in a band setting with five other musicians, the session took place in Levon Helm’s Woodstock home while Helm was out of town. The tapes languished until now. Here is Peter’s take on the recording:

“One cold late fall weekend I put a session together. I found housing for the out of town musicians and invited my friend Maruga Booker who came all the way from Detroit, Badal Roy and I had played together and he was available so he came up from New Jersey, the rest of the guys were already in Woodstock that week. It all come together at Levon Helm’s house while Levon was away, Paul Butterfield heard about it and came by but didn’t play, it wasn’t blues so it wasn’t his thing. The police chief heard about it, showed up drunk, sneered his contempt for the “Hippies”, and went away. I traded with Eddy Offord for the equipment rental and engineering, so in so many ways it was a classic “Woodstock Production”. It was my last major effort before years of obscurity and remained in storage all these years. Josh Rosenthal (Tompkins Square) encouraged me to dig it out and release it.”

Peter will tour Europe and the United States in 2009 to celebrate the release of ‘Long Lost Tapes 1970.

Ran Blake – Driftwoods

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Ran Blake is an iconoclast. Since his 1961 collaboration with Jeanne Lee on RCA, Ran Blake has released 35 albums on such labels as ESP, Soul Note, Arista and hatOLOGY. His 2006 album on the Tompkins Square label, ‘All That Is Tied’, received 4 stars in Downbeat and earned top honors in the 2007 Penguin Guide to Jazz. Penguin’s editor Brian Morton and Wire Magazine hailed the record as a “masterpiece.”

For his new solo piano outing, ‘Driftwoods’, Ran salutes his favorite singers, interpreting songs popularized by Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, Hank Williams, Nat King Cole and more.

To celebrate the release, Ran will play a rare live solo piano performance at 9PM on WGBH on March 18th, airing locally on 89.7FM Boston and streaming globally via wgbh.org/jazz, click on “Listen Live.”

New York Times 2.1.09:
The pianist Ran Blake seems to hear other people’s music through a kind of creative seance; in the process it becomes transformed. On “Driftwoods” (Tompkins Square), a new solo piano record, he takes a tightly written old pop song – like “Dancing in the Dark,” “Unforgettable” or “Lost Highway” – and reveals behind it a slow-moving fantasia, full of shuddering harmony played with the sustain pedal down. He puts stops and elongations into each tune, making it move like a sleepwalker until a hard blues phrase wakes it up. He’s been doing this for nearly 50 years, forming his own canon of composers and performers from across the best of midcentury jazz, gospel, soul and classical music, and he’s still in great form.

Two More Grammy Noms for Tompkins Square

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Tompkins Square label has received two Grammy nominations:
Charlie Louvin ‘Steps To Heaven’ – Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album
Polk Miller & His Old South Quartette – Best Historical Album