September 2nd, 2008


Tompkins Square’s Acclaimed ‘Imaginational Anthem’ Acoustic Guitar Box Set Hits The Road

“I struggle to recall any recent comps that glide together as seamlessly as these Tompkins Square projects, and “Volume Three” is no exception. Contemplative, intricate, a simple but ornate school of folk that hangs effortlessly between the ancient and the avant-garde . . . I could listen to this stuff all day.” – John Mulvey, UNCUT

NYC’s Tompkins Square label presents three artists from its recent ‘Imaginational Anthem’ compilation series in concert: Cian Nugent (Ireland), Ben Reynolds (Scotland) and George Stavis. It is the first US tour for Nugent and Reynolds.

The acclaimed three-volume series, now available as a limited edition 3-CD box set, includes rare and unreleased acoustic guitar tracks by John Fahey, Sandy Bull, Robbie Basho, Mark Fosson, Michael Chapman, Harris Newman, Brad Barr, Jack Rose, Kaki King and many others.

Past ‘Imaginational Anthem’ release event and tour alumni include James Blackshaw, Jack Rose, Max Ochs, Christina Carter, Shawn David McMillen, Sharron Kraus, Sean Smith and others.

Oct 3 Williamsburg, Brooklyn Monkeytown 2 sets 7:30 & 10PM
Oct 4 NYC Cake Shop
Oct 5 Philadelphia Brickbat Books
Oct 6 Baltimore Golden West
Oct 7 DC Velvet Lounge
Oct 8 Somerville MA The Nave
Oct 9 Montague MA Bookmill
Oct 10 Burlington VT Firehouse Gallery
Oct 11 Portland ME Time of Rivers Festival


Cian Nugent: 19 years old, from Ireland. His debut EP is a CDR (ltd. ed. of 100) with six tracks recorded on a 70’s reel-to-reel machine, and the crude nature of it harks back to those early recordings of Davey Graham at Hull University. It even includes a re-working of Buell Kazee’s “Wagoner’s Lad”, famously covered by Bert Jansch. His debut for Tompkins Square is set for the first half of ‘09.

Ben Reynolds: From Scotland. “Here Toucheth Blues”, a highlight of ‘Imaginational Anthem vol 3′, is lilting and elegiac, a bit surprising as his fans are likely more familiar with his angular, raga-charged works. Ben is building a fantastic catalogue of solo recordings (and a multitude of side projects and collaborations), most recently ‘Two Wings’ on the Strange Attractors label. His Tompkins Square debut surfaces in early ‘09.

George Stavis: A shadowy figure from decades past, seemingly undiminished by time and ripe for re-discovery, is the mysterious banjo picker, George Stavis. He recorded one album for Vanguard in 1969, Labyrinths, subtitled Occult Improvisational Compositions for 5-string banjo and percussion. This LP is the oddest and best banjo album of the period, only rivaled perhaps by fellow 5-stringer Billy Faier’s 1973 Takoma album – good luck finding an LP copy of either, however Labyrinths is available on CD. Stavis is pictured on the cover wearing a medieval robe and holding a glowing crystal ball. The record is a wonderful devil’s brew of ethnic, old-timey and psychedelics. He returns to the stage for the first time in decades.

July 10th, 2008

Country Music Hall of Fame legend Charlie Louvin will release two new albums in 2008

ON TOUR WITH OLD 97’s Oct 1-12 !

Steps to Heaven, due September 16th, 2008, features ten traditional gospel classics including two Louvin Brothers songs. The release will be followed by Charlie Louvin Sings Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, out December 9, 2008. Both albums were produced, recorded and mixed by Mark Nevers (Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Andrew Bird, Bobby Bare Sr.)

Instead of hanging back at age 81, Charlie has instead chosen to challenge himself. Steps to Heaven was recorded live with a gospel choir comprised of three sisters, journeyman gospel pianist Derrick Lee, and Chris Scruggs adding doghouse bass and electric guitar. Louvin had never recorded with black gospel musicians before, and in doing so discovered a new musical path. Charlie remarks, “I did things on the gospel record I had no idea I could do. I’d be thinking along the way, ‘How can I do things I’ve never done before?’ And I did it.”

2007 saw Louvin celebrate his 80th birthday amidst a swirl of activity around the release of his first studio album in ten years, Charlie Louvin. Grammy-nominated for Best Traditional Folk Album, the disc features George Jones, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Will Oldham, and Elvis Costello, among others. Charlie toured and recorded with Lucinda Williams, made a video for the song “Ira”, released a field recording of one of his many in-store performances, Live at Shake It Records, played over 100 concert dates sharing stages with Ryan Adams and Neko Case, appeared on giant festivals like Bonnaroo and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and placed a medallion around Emmylou Harris’ neck inducting her into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Charlie’s self-titled album earned 4 out of 5 stars in Uncut and Mojo Magazine, and sparked a bevy of great press and renewed interest in his fascinating career.

Charlie will open for She & Him in Nashville July 30th, Mercy Lounge !

More tour dates over at

June 3rd, 2008

Tompkins Square set to release James Blackshaw’s
Litany of Echoes June 17th, 2008

Initially inspired by the guitarists of the 60’s Takoma label to teach himself fingerpicking, London-based musician James Blackshaw writes pieces primarily for solo 12-string guitar that share more in common with the minimalist works of composers such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Charlemagne Palestine, as well as French composers Claude Debussy and Erik Satie, than the blues/raga influence of his peers. Using drones, overtones and repeating patterns alongside a strong inclination for melody, Blackshaw creates instrumental music that is intelligent, hypnotic and unashamedly sentimental.

Blackshaw’s previous 2007 album for Tompkins Square, The Cloud Of Unknowing garnered huge acclaim from all corners of the globe from both listeners and critics alike, receiving effusive reviews in Pitchfork, The Wire, The Observer, The Times, Uncut, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Magnet and Acoustic Guitar, and earning him a slot opening in the UK and US for Jose Gonzalez during fall 2007. The Cloud of Unknowing was also listed as one of the 50 best albums of 2007 by The Wire and Pitchfork.

Litany of Echoes, Blackshaw’s sixth studio album in five years, shows a more mature, focused and, on the whole, accessible approach to composition. While the album often feels darker and more introspective in nature than on previous releases, many of the songs have a huge-sounding, classical quality to them. With Blackshaw adding some glistening piano work for the first time and Fran Bury returning to play swarms of sweeping string parts for violin and viola, Litany of Echoes is a truly original, affecting and timeless album from a guitarist/composer coming into his own.

April 18th, 2008

Praise for Imaginational Anthem

“The single most significant body of solo acoustic guitar music to be published in the 21st century so far” – Boomkat

“Solo Acoustic Guitar music to get excited about” – Variety

“I struggle to recall any recent comps that glide together as seamlessly as these Tompkins Square projects, and “Volume Three” is no exception. Contemplative, intricate, a simple but ornate school of folk that hangs effortlessly between the ancient and the avant-garde . . . I could listen to this stuff all day.” – John Mulvey, UNCUT

“Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem series has not just unearthed the continuing steel-string tradition, but made it relevant.” – eMusic

“Simply put, these are all essential recordings, they offer solid evidence of how the tradition continues from the ’60s to the present day in the same way that albums by Fahey, Kottke, Crandell, Lang, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, and countless others picked up on the lineages of the previous decades from folk, blues, prison songs and mountain and church music foundations, and brought it forth, shifted and changed and added and subtracted. This box is the latest entry in the long long logbook. Get it.” – 4.5 / 5 stars, All Music Guide

“Taken as a whole, these three albums provide a comprehensive overview of the ongoing American Primitive movement, and will likely provide a large enough resevoir to tide you over handsomely should that acoustic guitar drought ever come.”
- Pitchfork

April 16th, 2008

Imaginational Anthem box set – 4.5 star review – All Music Guide’s Thom Jurek

Imaginational Anthem Vols 1-3 box set – 4 1/2 stars All Music Guide :

Quietly but quickly, New York City’s Tompkins Square label is amassing a formidable catalog of outsider music. They’ve taken their time but it’s been worth every glorious minute. They’ve reissued long-gone yet seminal works such as Robbie Basho’s Venus in Cancer and Harry Taussig’s 1965 private-press album Fate Is Only Once, as well as the incredible multiple-disc box set of vintage 78 and field recordings called People Take Warning: Murder Ballads & Songs of Disaster 1913-1938, in a killer package with an introduction by Tom Waits. In addition to reissues — there are sets by brilliant and celebrated but widely under-the-radar jazz visionaries such as guitar wizard Bern Nix (best known for his work with Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time), pianist Ran Blake, and saxophonist Charles Gayle. Mostly, however, Tompkins Square has become the Takoma Records of the 21st century, issuing album after album from lesser known but legendary visionaries such as Peter Walker, Charlie Louvin, and Spencer Moore to name just three. Finally, the imprint has begun an aggressive campaign of documenting and reissuing rare recordings — and new ones — by younger players whose names are whispered about in awe in the underground communities where limited-edition CD and vinyl works are de rigeur; namely those by multi-instrumentalist Shawn David McMillen and guitarist James Blackshaw. The latter has been a bit of a coup: Tompkins Square has introduced the British musician’s work to American ears by releasing his brilliant Cloud of Unknowing in 2007 and reissuing his catalog.

One of the great lynchpins in the Tompkins Square approach to introducing its artists to hipsters everywhere (as well as fans of great acoustic music) is its Imaginational Anthems series. This slipcase box contains the first three volumes in the series, released between 2005 and 2008. Assembled and annotated by label boss Josh Rosenthal, these volumes are as wonderfully and carefully assembled as any of the early Takoma samplers. He puts these beautiful slabs together in such a way that the listener is transported aurally and “imaginationally” into a world where time ceases to exist, and sound is simply the reach of space itself. No dimensions, it’s all around you, through you, and over you. Volume one contained works by Jack Rose, Taussig, the late Sandy Bull, John Fahey, Nix, Max Ochs, Kaki King, Gyan and Terry Riley (yes, that Terry Riley), Suni McGrath, and others. It is a startling, surprising collection of very rare and seminal tracks by fabled legends of yore, unknowns musical alchemists and, in King’s case, a young visionary, but it the disc holds together beautifully, casting its spell over the listener profoundly and completely. The second installment in the series brought us lauded latecomers like Jose Gonzalez, Blackshaw, and Christina Carter, and placed that music in the context of its architects: Basho, Brit folk iconoclast Michael Chapman, Peter Lang, Rose, Sharron Krauss, and more. It’s a stunner in its labyrinthine construction and Rosenthal’s selections are poignant and precise. Finally, the third volume in the series that concludes this box — keep an eye out, will be more — is a wild selection of the near mythical. There are cuts by underground five-string banjoist George Stavis, guitarist Mark Fossom, and Richard Crandell (whose recordings are coming back into print after decades hidden from view) as well as players that are either well known or should be, such as Basho disciple Steffen Basho-Junghans, McMillen, R. Keenan Lawler (a monster resonator guitar picker), Matt Baldwin, Cian Nugent (no relation to Terrible Ted), Ben Reynolds, and Greg Davis, to name a few. Simply put, these are all essential recordings, they offer solid evidence of how the tradition continues from the ’60s to the present day in the same way that albums by Fahey, Kottke, Crandell, Lang, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, and countless others picked up on the lineages of the previous decades from folk, blues, prison songs and mountain and church music foundations, and brought it forth, shifted and changed and added and subtracted. This box is the latest entry in the long long logbook. Get it.

April 7th, 2008

Peter Walker’s First Album in 40 Years due May 6th

“Peter Walker was actually a bigger influence on my acoustic playing than John Fahey or Robbie Basho.”
– Ben Chasny, Six Organs of Admittance

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.”
A Raga for Peter Walker was released by Tompkins Square 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.
In recent years, Walker has developed an intense interest in flamenco guitar and, through regular trips to Spain, has been accepted into flamenco’s exclusive musical elite. Peter states,
“The music on this CD was reviewed and acclaimed in Andalucia by some of the old guard who have encouraged its release. With its roots in ancient East Indian music, Flamenco has influenced much of the world’s music. These Spanish-inspired pieces reflect my passion for this musical rubric.”
Selection #: TSQ 1752

1. Cante Gitano (Gypsy Song)
2. Flor de Noche (Night Flower)
3. Caminar en la Tarde (Afternoon Walk)
4. Manitas Juntos (Hands Together)
5. Cueve de Pepe (Pepe’s Cave)
6. Sacromonte (Sacred Mountain)
7. Eco de mi Alma (Echo of My Soul)
8. Poema de Amar (Love Poem)
9. Jaleador (Spirit Caller)
10. Soleo (Alone)
11. Cante en Medio (Song in A Major)
12. Por Rosa (Song in E Major)
13. Grandita (Song From Granada)
14. Bailarcito (Little Dance)


Wed APRIL 09 GIRON, CAFE EL CERCLE (Blackmusic Fest.)
Thu 17 Freakzone Session 1.30pm
Fri 18 BBC World Service session
MAY 1 TORONTO, ON Over The Top Festival
MAY 3 Hamilton ON@ Casbah

February 20th, 2008

James Blackshaw Re-Issues Due March 25th

Coming off a round of year-end praise for James Blackshaw’s 2007 release, The Cloud of Unknowing, the Tompkins Square label will release four catalog titles by the acclaimed UK guitarist/composer on March 25th, 2008.

The reissues will comprise out-of-print works previously only available as tiny private runs of CDRs and LPs. They include Celeste, Sunshrine, Lost Prayers And Motionless Dances, and White Goddess.

The Cloud of Unknowing was selected as a Top 50 Album of the Year by Pitchfork and Wire Magazine, a Top 10 Album of the Year by WNYC, and was hailed in the New York Times on December 31st by Jon Pareles, who said, “Blackshaw plays 12-string acoustic guitar, picking endlessly circling, intertwining arpeggios: stately, tolling ones on the lower strings and faster ones, verging on tremolo, up above. Yet what usually emerges from the welter of notes is not bustle but tranquility. The music has the same contemplative scope that turns countless tiny daubs into a Monet water lily.”

James toured extensively with Jose Gonzalez in 2007. He will return to the U.S. in the Spring in support of his next studio album.

February 15th, 2008

Imaginational Anthem Volume Three : Third Installment Of Tompkins Square’s Acclaimed Acoustic Guitar Compilation Series

On April 8th 2008, Tompkins Square will release Imaginational Anthem Vol. 3, the third in a series of compilations devoted to acoustic guitar mavericks past and present. The label will also release all three volumes together as a box set on the same date.

As with Volumes 1 & 2, the new album features extraordinary young talents such as Cian Nugent (Ireland), Ben Reynolds (UK), and Shawn David McMillen (Austin, TX) alongside unsung heroes from decades past, such as banjo master George Stavis, who recorded an album for Vanguard in the 60’s; Richard Crandell, whose rare private press works will hopefully now be brought to light; and Mark Fosson, whose lost 1977 Takoma album was recently issued.

Released in October 2005, Imaginational Anthem was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, and received 4 stars from Uncut (“Entrancing”), All Music Guide (“Masterful”) and Mojo (“Groundbreaking”). Rolling Stone’s David Fricke wrote, “The history and beauty here speaks for themselves, at the perfect volume.” Jon Pareles wrote in The New York Times, “Old and new, the music meditates on blues, Appalachian music, raga and ragtime, and traditions are transfigured by a deep love for the sonority of the acoustic guitar.”

Released in June 2006, Imaginational Anthem Volume 2 opened with the gorgeous “River of Heaven” by Tompkins Square recording artist James Blackshaw, and featured unreleased recordings by legends such as Michael Chapman, Fred Gerlach, Billy Faier, Peter Lang, and Robbie Basho. The album was supported by a national Arthur Magazine-sponsored U.S. tour with Blackshaw, Sharron Kraus and Sean Smith. Pitchfork wrote, “(IA2) pairs some of the leading lights of the current avant-folk subculture with unearthed vintage folk rarities.”

Tompkins Square has been steadily mining the genre known as “American Primitive Guitar” with a string of acclaimed releases over the past two years, including reissues of seminal ’60’s albums by Robbie Basho and Harry Taussig; an album by three young guitarists from the Bay Area, Berkeley Guitar; The Cloud of Unknowing by 25-year old UK trailblazer James Blackshaw; Catfish, the debut album from Austin multi-instrumentalist Shawn David McMillen, and a tribute album for ’60’s-era Vanguard recording artist Peter Walker, entitled A Raga For Peter Walker.

Full Album Stream:

Track listing for Imaginational Anthem Vol. 3 :
1. Richard Crandell – Zocalo
2. Ben Reynolds – Here Toucheth Blues
3. Greg Davis – Sleep Architecture
4. Nathan Salsburg – Bold Ruler’s Joys
5. Steffen Basho-Junghans – Blue Mountain Raga II
6. Cian Nugent – When the Snow Melts And Floats Downstream
7. Matt Baldwin – Sean Cycle
8. Mark Fosson – Another Fine Day
9. George Stavis – Goblins
10. R. Keenan Lawler – High Tower Bells For Loren Connors
11. Shawn David McMillen – Texarkana 1971

December 7th, 2007


Tompkins Square Label has received two Grammy nominations !

Charlie Louvin’s self-titled album is nominated in the Best Traditional Folk category. ‘People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs 1913-1938′ is nominated in the Best Historical category.

August 6th, 2007

‘People Take Warning ! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs 1913-1938′ out September 25th

“In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, the Depression gripped the Nation. It was a time when songs were tools for living. A whole community would turn out to mourn the loss of a member and to sow their songs like seeds. This collection is a wild garden grown from those seeds.” – Tom Waits, from the Introduction

Songs of death, destruction and disaster, recorded by black and white performers from the dawn of American roots recording are here, assembled together for the first time. Whether they document world-shattering events like the sinking of the Titanic or memorialize long forgotten local murders or catastrophes, these 70 recordings – over 30 never before reissued – are audio messages in a bottle reflecting a lost world where age old ballads rubbed up against songs inspired by the day’s headlines.

Featuring beautifully remastered recordings by the some of the cornerstones of American vernacular recording such as Charlie Patton, Ernest Stoneman, Furry Lewis, Charlie Poole and Uncle Dave Macon, these songs tell of life and death struggles forever immortalized on these rare and compelling 78 rpms. Produced and annotated by Grammy winning team of Christopher King and Henry “Hank” Sapoznik with an introduction by Tom Waits, the accompanying 48- page three-CD anthology designed by Grammy award winning Susan Archie brims with many eye- popping historic images never before reproduced.