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.