At 80, Alice Gerrard receives her first Grammy nomination, for ‘Follow The Music’, Best Folk Album. The first for her, the seventh for Tompkins Square. Big ups to Michael Taylor for producing, and making it happen.
** GRAMMY NEWS **
WHEN I REACH THAT HEAVENLY SHORE : UNEARTHLY BLACK GOSPEL, 1926-1936
Among the most powerful music to be captured on 78 rpm in America during the 1920s & 1930s are those recordings of black sanctified and gospel singing. Ranging from plaintive mourning to unbridled ecstasy, the sacred music from this time period represents a flowering of diverse and idiosyncratic rural songs styles. At no time was there a wider panorama of religious songs in America.
Selected exclusively from Christopher King’s private collection, the 78s included here represent the most unhinged, the most compelling survey of pre-war black gospel. The complete recorded output of the Primitive Baptist Choir of North Carolina is also included in this collection for the first time. Several rare & previously unissued photographs are also contained within. Lovingly and respectfully designed by Susan Archie and firmly grounded in Scripture by Christopher King.
BESSIE JONES – GET IN UNION – OCTOBER 27th
“A folk and gospel classic” – 4 stars – The Guardian
4 1/2 stars – All Music Guide
“Highest recommendation” – Other Music
* Produced by Grammy-nominated Curator of the Alan Lomax Archive, Nathan Salsburg
* Features 26 previously unreleased tracks. Unheard collaborations with Rev. Gary Davis, Sweet Papa Stovepipe, Mable Hillery, and others.
* Remastered from Lomax’s original tapes
Bessie Jones was one of the most popular performers on the 1960s and ’70s folk circuit, appearing-usually at the helm of the Georgia Sea Island Singers-at colleges, festivals, the Poor People’s March on Washington, and Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. “Get In Union” is a collection of her classic recordings with the Singers, combined with many previously unavailable solo and small-group performances captured by Alan Lomax between 1959 and 1966.
Alan Lomax first visited the Georgia Sea Island of St. Simons in June of 1935 with folklorist Mary Elizabeth Barnicle and author Zora Neale Hurston. There they met the remarkable Spiritual Singers Society of Coastal Georgia, as the group was then called, and recorded several hours of their songs and dances for the Library of Congress. Returning 25 years later, Lomax found that the Singers were still active, and had been enriched by the addition of Bessie Jones, a South Georgia native with a massive collection of songs going back to the slavery era. Over the next several years, Lomax and Jones worked together to present, promote, and teach Southern black folk song across the country, from nightclubs to elementary schools. “Get In Union” features freshly remastered audio from 24-bit digital transfers of Lomax’s original tapes and notes by the Alan Lomax Archive’s Nathan Salsburg and Anna Lomax Wood, who accompanied her father on his 1960 recordings of Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers.
ALICE GERRARD – FOLLOW THE MUSIC – SEPT 30
“Alice Gerrard has one of those voices that harkens back to the likes of Sara and Maybelle. She is the real deal with the right stuff and hasn’t forgotten where country music came from.”
- Emmylou Harris, June 2014
“This new Alice Gerrard album is next level” – UNCUT
The trailblazing folksinger famously collaborated with Hazel Dickens. Their classic recordings for Folkways and Rounder in the ’60’s and 70’s “rank among the most influential recordings in folk music history,” (All Music Guide), and laid the groundwork for many artists, especially female bluegrass and folk musicians.
‘Follow The Music’ features traditional tunes and original songs by Alice, produced by Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor, and features members of Hiss Golden Messenger and Megafaun. Available on LP/CD/DL via Tompkins Square, September 30th, 2014.
SMOKE DAWSON – ‘FIDDLE’ – LP/CD/DL
SMOKE DAWSON – ‘FIDDLE’ – 1971 Private Press LP Reissued on LP / CD/ DL August 19th
Notes by reissue producer / Tompkins Square label owner Josh Rosenthal :
I was doing some research for a box set of music recorded at Caffe Lena, the hallowed folk music venue located in Saratoga Springs, NY, when I came upon a photograph of a musician I didn’t recognize. He looked like a sixth member of The Band – a handsome fiddler with wax moustache, goatee, black Western hat. There was a traditional air to him, a seriousness, but there was also something wild there. I needed to know who he was, and everything about him. The producers told me his name was Smoke Dawson, and they had tape on him. We listened, and his live version of “Devil’s Dream” made it onto the box set. Then I started digging. I found a 1996 blog post from someone named Oliver Seeler, who claimed to have recorded a solo album by Dawson in 1971. I called the number on the site, not expecting much from an 18 year old blog post. But he picked up. He gave me background on the record. And, he gave me Smoke Dawson’s phone number.
George Dawson was born June 5, 1935 in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York. His father was an Irish immigrant blacksmith who worked for years on the Brooklyn Bridge. He was an Irish choral tenor singer, and his wife, a Philadelphia native of Irish descent, sang as well. Around 1955, George picked up the banjo and started meeting fellow musicians. In March of 1960, George joined a trio, MacGrundy’s Old-Timey Wool Thumpers, with Rob Hunter on guitar (not of Grateful Dead fame) and Peter Stampfel (of Holy Modal Rounders fame) on fiddle and mandolin. That was Peter’s first band too. “Wool Thumpers was a euphemism for fucking,” Peter recalls. “George played banjo, he was an extremely good player, and a wrestler and a weightlifter. There was a half-way house for bad Jewish girls who had been sent to a mental facility called Hillside. There were periodic reunions of the bad girls, and they hired our group to play. Paying gigs were extremely rare at the time. The woman who ran the show hated us. We had a choreographed stunt that we had planned. We’re playing “Dallas Rag”, Rob has a pipe in his mouth, and Dawson swings his banjo into Rob’s face, and the pipe goes flying right into the boss lady matron’s forehead and there’s a big loud gasp. Rob and Dawson fell down on the floor laughing . . .” And so it began. According to George, it was actually Peter’s proficiency on banjo that turned him into a fiddle player. “Peter was such a good banjo player. I said, ‘Why don’t I learn the fiddle and you can play the banjo’.” Or as Peter tells it, “George took a fuck-ton of speed and came back in a couple of weeks playing fiddle better than I did.” Around 1962, George was a new father to a boy named Wade (named after old-time banjo player Wade Ward). But he left his family behind, and ran off with Peter’s wife.
George began frequenting Caffe Lena in 1960, playing there October 14th and 15th of that year with Rob Hunter. George would live at the Caffe on and off for eight years. “It was the nicest place I knew of in the whole country. I helped cook, painted, I had romances there. It was the place I came of age.” He also immersed himself in the West Village folk scene, hanging out at Izzy Young’s Folklore Center, seeing Dave Van Ronk, Tom Paxton, Jack Elliott. “There was no one playing fiddle and suddenly I was in demand. I watched Dylan slowly sink into the scene. I ran a Sunday afternoon show at the Gaslight for (owner) John Mitchell.” Eager to discover the influences of so many folk artists during the period, George took an extensive Southern road trip. “I looked up people who Alan Lomax recorded. I lived in North Carolina and Virginia and spent a week with Doc Watson and Wade Ward. Eventually I moved to Florida, playing on the bar circuit, on the street. Then I drifted to California, chasing a girl. Went back and forth to Saratoga but stayed in California from 1968 on.”
Dawson played bagpipes at the California Renaissance Pleasure Faires, and busked on the streets of San Francisco. He fell in with a collective called Golden Toad, a rotating troupe of folk musicians led by Robert Donovan Thomas, a charismatic bagpipe player who designed the Grateful Dead’s skull and lightning bolt logo. Their first gig took place at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and although original member Mickey Zeckley claims it was recorded, there’s no evidence of this, and sadly no other recordings of the group are known to exist. Golden Toad would open for the Dead on occasion (never with George). Zeckley remembers, “George was a crazy, wacky guy who could play a hell of a fiddle. He was with Suzy Marceau, who had a green card marriage to Marcel Marceau’s son.”
On the afternoon of October 20, 1968, George joined his girlfriend Ruth Denny Decker Sennepf, and another couple on the Mendocino Headlands, a rugged stretch of coastline, while “experiencing enhanced consciousness” as George recalls, out on the rocks, watching the waves. A “sneaker” wave came and swept them in. George and the other couple were caught between some rocks down below and escaped, but Denny, as George called her, was swept away, and drowned. The Ukiah Daily Journal reported the story on October 21, 1968 : ‘ A 27-year-old Mendocino woman drowned Sunday at 1 :30 p.m. when she was swept from a rock by a towering wave. Victim was Ruth Denny Decker Sennepf, formerly of Mill Valley, who was sitting on the rock when she was swept away. Her companions, two men and a woman, escaped.’ Fellow Mendocino resident Ramblin’ Jack Elliott knew George in the early 70’s, and recalled the story. Folk musician Bob Gibson describes a lonely bagpipe player who can be heard in the Mendocino night in his tune “Smoke Dawson,” which recounts the incident. “George went home and burned his fiddle and swore he would never play again,” says Zeckley.
Oliver Seeler, a bagpipe player inspired by Golden Toad and Robert Thomas, recorded fellow busker Dawson in 1971 in Sea Ranch, CA. Seeler would go on to build bagpipes and run a world bagpipe website. The studio was situated near an airport, which made recording difficult. Oliver describes George as restless and uncomfortable in the studio, but George remembers a kid coming in with very good hash. Either way, what we hear is remarkable. “My whole training came from Mozart’s father’s book about violin technique (Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule).” A tune like “The Minotaur” however, sounds like a swarm of bees violently shaken out of their hive. Where did he come up with that technique ? “I made it up. But my influence is from baroque violin, and on bagpipes I know Dutch, German, Spanish, Welsh and great tunes from a couple of hundred years ago.” These are traditional tunes leavened with a touch of sorcery (see cover), a bit of Mendocino hippie, an audible ’60’s hangover. 750 copies of the album were manufactured.
In 1972, Dawson took the stage at Ash Grove with The White Brothers (Clarence, Roland & Eric), their father Eric White, Sr., LeRoy Mack and Pat Cloud. There is a photo from the show. A fiddle player was needed and George somehow got the call. Roland recalls George as a fine player although a somewhat awkward fit, with George playing in a traditional old-timey style maybe not best suited for a bluegrass group. It would be the last moment in the limelight for Smoke Dawson, at least in terms of playing with nationally recognized artists. “I’ve been a computer programmer for IBM, a commercial fisherman, blacksmith, aerial photographer, goldmining engineer, wrestler, entertainer,” Dawson says. “I’ve played music for three to eight hours a day for thirty, forty years.”
In 1992, George was diagnosed with cancer at the base of his tongue, was given six months to live, and went through experimental treatment protocol. The treatment was devastating and it took five years for him to recover. On his way from Eugene to Spokane WA, he collapsed. And he has stayed in that same small town in Washington state ever since. Although he was left with essential tremor and other debilitating effects from radiation, he continued to play bagpipes. His town bought him a beautiful set so he could play weddings, funerals and town events. He is in touch with his four sons, from four different relationships.
“I row a boat, smoke dope, my girlfriend of twenty years is in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease. I talk to fish, deer, birds.” George turns reflective. “I was cuckoo, couldn’t get along in the world. The music always saved me. It got me friends, it got me shelter”.
“I could go into my own Dreamworld.”
- Josh Rosenthal
San Francisco, CA
JAMES BLACKSHAW – FANTOMAS : LE FAUX MAGISTRAT – OUT NOW !
BUY IT !
Live album features Simon Scott (Slowdive), Duane Pitre. 2LP/CD/DL.
STREAM THE ALBUM AND WATCH A PERFORMANCE VIDEO VIA STEREOGUM PREMIERE
In celebration of the centenary of Louis Feuillade’s Fantômas silent film series, James Blackshaw was invited by Yann Tiersen to perform a live score to the fifth and final film, Le Faux Magistrat, at the beautiful and prestigious surroundings of the Théâtre de Châtelet, Paris on October 31st 2013.
Fantômas – a master of disguise and symbol of terror – is one of the most popular characters in French crime fiction, as well as a favourite with the avant-garde, particularly the surrealists.
Tim Hecker, Amiina, Yann Tiersen and Loney Dear also performed during the event (which was broadcast live on the European ARTE channel) each bringing their own unique sonic perspective to the other installments in the series.
Written during the course of a few months, Blackshaw drew influences from French impressionist composers, Brazillian guitar music, musique concrete and the works of other film composer such as David Shire and Pino Donaggio, to create a noirish score that is in turns sinister, quietly profound and thrilling.
Personally invited by James Blackshaw, experimental musicians Duane Pitre and Simon Scott (also of Slowdive) contributed drums, electronics, synth, bowed guitar, bass and more to Blackshaw’s nylon string guitar and grand piano, with multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Glasson adding violin, vibraphone and several wind instruments to the 75 minute long work.
MOJO **** Four stars
“Considerably broadens the composer’s palette”
Blackshaw’s new music is the sound of someone actively pressing against the boundaries of expectation. ‘Fantômas’ is Blackshaw’s most audacious attempt yet to shatter that mold. – Pitchfork
“It may be Blackshaw’s most ambitious work yet, and another variation on his ever expanding repertoire of talents.”
All Music Guide **** Four stars
“We heard bits and pieces that suggested Blackshaw was capable of a more expansive work, but nothing that hinted at the exquisite juxtaposition of tension, texture, tone, and harmonic color that ‘Fantômas: Le Faux Magistrat’ delivers”
Tiny Mix Tapes **** Four stars
“An incredible melody writer and musician in a tradition that existed long before him; he writes guitar and folk music as well as Robbie Basho or Leo Kottke, but he does not copy them.”
“A massive, gorgeous accomplishment”
“Blackshaw’s application of a wide variety of instrumental textures (including flute, piano, saxophone, bowed bass, electronics) is admirably assured . . .”
“An ambitious undertaking that succeeds due to a lively combination of respect and invention” (A-)
- Vinyl District
RYLEY WALKER – All Kinds Of You
DEBUT ALBUM BY CHICAGO’S RYLEY WALKER, OUT Now on LP/CD/DL
Ryley Walker is a 24 year-old singer/songwriter and guitarist from Chicago.
Having kicked around Chicago’s experimental free/noise music scene for several years, Ryley recently turned to a folk-rock sound inspired by some of his heroes, among them Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, and Bert Jansch. The result is a poised and accomplished debut album, recorded in Chicago by Cooper Crain (guitarist/keyboardist in Cave).
The West Wind, Ryley’s debut 3 song 12″ EP released in November, features “The West Wind” from the forthcoming album, and two B sides : “A Home For Me” and “Sweet Little Betsy” (w/Daniel Bachman). The 180g, 45rpm 12″ received praise from UNCUT, NPR, BBC, Rolling Stone and many other outlets.
“With the charming swagger of jazz-folk troubadour Tim Buckley and the resonant, full picking style of Bert Jansch, ‘The West Wind’ comes from Walker’s first widely available release, a three-song 12″. With acoustic guitar in hand and a voice like browned butter, Walker swings and sways in a lush string-and-piano arrangement right out of Buckley’s ‘Starsailor’; it slowly picks up to a swirling gallop without bucking the rhythm.”
- NPR Music
“Ryley Walker, a spaced-out young singer from Chicago who claws at his instrument like an angry old soul, was one of them. He spent his Thursday night practically snapping the strings off his guitar, squeezing magic and violence out of a gorgeous songbook. This was rainy day music for when the wind is threatening to rip your house from its foundation.” – Washington Post
NEW DIGITAL TITLES – AVAILABLE WORLDWIDE
Six new digital releases, available on every digital service around the world :
NEW ! Terry Waldo – The Soul Of Ragtime
Ragtime is one of America’s truly unique and precious art forms. Comprised of original and traditional tunes, the album is stylistically so varied that to simply call it ‘ragtime’ is nonsensical. At times dissonant, rollicking, gospel-influenced and harmonically complex, “The Soul of Ragtime’ celebrates tradition while moving the whole enterprise forward in surprising ways.
NEW !! Suni McGrath – Seven Stars
Legendary 12-string guitarist Suni McGrath’s first new recordings in 33 years were captured in 2006, but only three songs from that session were released. McGrath recorded three highly sought after out-of-print recordings in the 60’s.
Buy it on iTUNES
Share a Soundcloud link
NEW !! Harry Taussig – The Diamond of Lost Alphabets
The third album by American Primitive Guitar pioneer Harry Taussig. He appeared on Takoma’s ‘Contemporary Guitar Spring ‘67′ comp alongside John Fahey and Max Ochs. His first album, ‘Fate Is Only Once’, was released in 1965 and reissued on Tompkins Square in 2006. He waited 45 years before releasing ‘Fate Is Only Twice’, and now graces us with a third stellar collection. Taussig played his first live show ever at SXSW last year. A surprising resurgence from one of the true innovators.
Buy it on iTUNES
Share a Soundcloud link
Various Artists – Hooray For Max Ochs
Poet, activist, American Primitive Guitar master, Takoma recording artist, cousin of Phil Ochs and composer of “Imaginational Anthem,” which inspired Tompkins Square’s guitar series of the same name, Max Ochs is saluted via this tribute EP including two cover versions of IA by Sean Smith and Ben Reynolds, and tunes by Neil Harpe and Shawn McMillen. Previously eMusic-only.
Buy it on iTUNES
Bern Nix – Low Barometer
Guitarist Bern Nix has collaborated with Ornette Coleman as a member of Prime Time, as well as with John Zorn, Ronald Shannon Jackson and many more. This, his lone solo guitar album, is a 2006 session originally released as a limited edition of 25 CDs, now made available widely for the first time.
Buy it on iTUNES
Various Artists – Let Me Play This For You : Rare Cajun Recordings
This set features some of the rarest, most compelling tunes and heart-breaking songs from Southwest Louisiana. Most of the performances on this collection have not been heard since they were originally recorded on 78 rpm disc, and yet they serve as a discrete Rosetta Stone for the traditional Cajun and Creole repertoire that exists today. Released on CD in 2013.
Buy it on iTUNES
GRAMMY NEWS !
Nathan Salsburg has been nominated for a Grammy Award, Best Album Notes, from the 3CD/3LP box set , ‘Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard : Hard Time, Good Time & End Time Music, 1923-1936′. It’s Nathan’s first Grammy nomination, and the sixth for Tompkins Square.
‘I Heard The Angels Singing : Electrifying Black Gospel From The Nashboro Label, 1951-1983′
4CD box set housed in a deluxe gatefold jacket. Available December 10th.
“You’re not likely to hear more heavenly singing anywhere.” – SPIN (Best Reissues of 2013)
“The gospel label Nashboro, based in Nashville, was the parent company of Excello, the more famous blues label — known for idiosyncratic, echoey sessions by Slim Harpo and Otis Spann, among others, that have traveled far and wide. But most of the Southern singers on Nashboro, including Brother Joe May and the Fairfield Four, were putting God first, working for steady local radio play and sales directly through the Nashville record store run by Nashboro’s owner, Ernest Young. In the early years these are tight and quiet sessions — brushed drums under close-harmony groups — until the late ’50s, when gospel’s relationship with hotter R&B grows closer: You hear where early James Brown comes from in the lead vocalist of the Kindly Shepherds’ “Take the Lord With You,” from 1958, and Sister Lucille Barbee’s “Let the Church Roll On,” from 1960, could have been conceived by Bo Diddley. By the late ’60s to the ’80s, Nashboro made gospel as modest but excellent soul music: no more, no less.” – The New York Times, 11/29