Don Bikoff released one lone, rare solo album, ‘Celestial Explosion’, on Keyboard Records in 1968, now reissued on LP/CD/DL by Tompkins Square. Watch the YouTube video of Bikoff playing on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, taped May 12, 1968. You’ll see the sheepish, long-haired, mustachioed musician spinning gold in a style (still?) so foreign to the mainstream listener. The befuddled host concludes after Don’s performance, “That’s unusual to say the least.” A kid from Oyster Bay, LI, Bikoff got his start in Greenwich Village, annoying Dave Van Ronk and playing the folk/blues circuit where he met Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Jesse Fuller and Mississippi John Hurt. The comparisons to John Fahey’s and Robbie Basho’s work stated in the LP liner notes touched a nerve with Fahey himself at the time. Today, those comparisons are still inevitable, however they are for lazy ears. Bikoff has his own approach. Don is only 65 years old, and he’s still playing strong. Don will appear with labelmate Daniel Bachman at Union Pool, Brooklyn NY on April 30th.
Don Bikoff – Celestial Explosion – Feb 26 on CD/LP/DL
Lena Hughes – Queen of the Flat Top Guitar
Liner notes by JOHN RENBOURN.
LP/CD/DL January 29th, 2013
A musical “amateur” that best exemplified true artistry, Lena Hughes was born in Grape Grove Township, Missouri, in 1904. Though she never recorded any 78s and only one LP, Hughes was most influential through her steady performances at various fiddler conventions and folk festivals throughout the Ozarks. She was an excellent fiddler, banjoist and guitar picker who retained the largely extinct repertoire of parlor pieces and the variety of specialized tunings that were necessary to play them. She lived most of her life in Ludlow, Missouri and passed away in 1998.
Lena Hughes’ repertoire can be divided roughly in half: finger-picked numbers adapted from fiddle tunes and recast parlor guitar pieces gleaned from popular sentimental songs, hymns, and 19th century airs. As a faithful attendee at folk festivals, Hughes was accompanied by her guitar-playing husband, Jake. Her most mesmerizing performances, such as Pearly Dew, Spanish Fandango, and Kentucky Moon Waltz, depend heavily upon the resonance of the open chord as it relates to the picking of the melodic line, primarily on one string. This tonal reliance is most similar to the “celestial octave” that Washington Phillips employs, with similar effect, on his Train Your Child. This ethereal harmonic technique, which seems so natural in Hughes’ playing, is the holy grail for most finger-picking guitarists. Her lack of pretense and her mastery of this repertoire is what defines her legendary status.
These recordings were made in the early 60’s in Arkansas and released in very limited fashion as a private press LP. Remastered by Chris King. Designed by Susan Archie.
Tompkins Square Grammy News
‘He Is My Story : The Sanctified Soul of Arizona Dranes‘ has been nominated for a Grammy, Best Historical Album. It’s the 7th nom for producer Chris King, the 1st for engineer Bryan Hoffa, the 1st for Tompkins Square label founder Josh Rosenthal, and the 5th for the Tompkins Square label. Big ups to Susan Archie (design) and Michael Corcoran (notes).
Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard : Hard Time, Good Time & End Time Music, 1923-1936
Available as a deluxe 3LP & 3CD Box Set. BUY HERE.
Work, play, pray – the lifecycle of the rural America that created our greatest generation of country music, 1923 to 1936. These volumes survey songs of labor and occupation, hardship and loss; dance tunes, comic numbers, and novelties that provided distraction and fun; and the hymns and sacred pieces that reached beyond the raw material of daily existence for something enduring. Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard features 19 previously un-reissued sides and is largely drawn from the collection of the late Don Wahle of Louisville, Kentucky. A hillbilly 78 collector for many years, his records were hours away from the dump when producer Nathan Salsburg recovered them. Compiled and annotated by Salsburg with accompanying essays by Sarah Bryan(editor of the Old Time Herald), Amanda Petrusich (New York Times; author of It Still Moves), and John Jeremiah Sullivan(Southern editor of the Paris Review; author of Blood Horses and the essay collection Pulphead).
Daniel Bachman – Seven Pines – on CD/LP/DL
Daniel Bachman is a 22 year old musician born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He has been playing what he describes as “psychedelic appalachia” since he was a teenager, releasing small run editions of tapes, CDs and LPs for the past three years, with a sound that evolved from drones and banjos to a now guitar centered focus. Touring off and on since the age of 17, Bachman has managed to cover thorough ground across the US, sharing stages with like minded folk such as fellow Fredericksburg native Jack Rose, for whom he fashioned the artwork for the posthumous release of ‘Luck In The Valley’. His newest effort is the full length LP ‘Seven Pines’, sprung from a year living and working in the city of Philadelphia. The sound results in a combination of homesick worried blues and the ecstatic buzz of fresh experience and a new life in unknown territory. Familiar and known, but also seeking to access memories from lives past, dead and gone.
Bill Wilson – Ever Changing Minstrel
Indiana’s Bill Wilson drove to Nashville and knocked on producer Bob Johnston’s kitchen door in 1973. Johnston had recently produced albums by Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Bob let him in to play a few songs, liked it, and rounded up his crew that played on Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde”. They recorded ‘Ever Changing Minstrel’ that night, and it was released on Columbia Records in 1973. The album is now reissued with rare photographs, notes by reissue producer and Tompkins Square label owner Josh Rosenthal, and remastered from the original tapes.
Six International Titles Now Available Digitally
Tompkins Square label is proud to release six albums compiled by musicologist Ian Nagoski for his Canary label. These titles have appeared as limited edition pressings, and are out of print. However, the albums can now be purchased around the world via the digital service of your choice; Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, Boomkat, Other Music and many others.
v/a – Brass Pins & Pearls: International 78s
A collection of radiant music from around the world compiled from 78rpm discs from the first half of the 20th century. Originally released at two LPs (A String of Pearls in late 2009 and Brass Pins & Match Heads in early 2011), each LP reacted directly to the early deaths of musician-friends of compiler Ian Nagoski and asked, “What is the value of the life of one musician?” The complexly interwoven performances are visceral and lifelike outpourings of strong emotions and outrageous feats of virtuosity. Musicians, famous and unknown alike from staggeringly varied backgrounds, together give the impression of the goodness, wonder and mystery of music itself. These 25 tracks span nearly as many cultures and languages but flow seamlessly as one human voice.
Marika Papagika – The Further the Flame, the Worse it Burns Me: Greek Folk Music in New York City, 1919-28
The Greek singer Marika Papagika was one of the best-selling immigrant performers in the US of the 1920s. Her records were often deeply emotive, full of dignity and grace, ambition, heart-rending sorrow and resignation, and nostalgic patriotism for the world she left behind. This album of eleven songs (drawn from the 250 performances s he left behind from her career in America) from deep in 19th century Greek folklore and pan-Ottoman Eastern Mediterranean experience showcase her extraordinary voice, accompanied by some of the best musicians of the New York Greek scene.
Khansahib Ustad Abdul Karim Khan – 1934-1935
Even now, 75 years since his death in 1937, Abdul Karim Khan remains the most revered and admired Hindustani singer of the early 20th century. His influence and legacy continue to pervade Indian music. His voice, elastic, mercurial, and almost impossibly sweet, and his unique style, broadly nationalist the time of the rise of the Independence movement and popularly alluring while still expanding on the refinement and technique of the centuries-old court music from which he had come, was best-preserved at recording session in Bombay in the mid-30s, from which these ten exquisite performances were drawn.
v/a – What Remains of Eden: Anatolian & Levantine Musics, 1928-1952
Coincident with the birth of the modern Middle East in the 1920s-50s was a flurry of recording activity in Cairo, Istanbul, and among the diaspora of the Eastern Mediterranean in the United States. These 15 tracks originate from Istanbul through the heart of Anatolia to Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, spanning the classical to the folk, from cafes to courts, from the joyous to the plaintive, and many distinct ethnicities (Arab, Armenian, Assyrian, Greek, Kurdish, Maronite, Roma, and Turkish), celebrities and unknowns alike, each with a unique, palpable focus and intensity, each with a powerful story to tell.
v/a – Bed of Pain: Rembetika 1931-1955
The deep, dark hybrid music born in the urban slums of Greece, rembetika is often referred to as “the Greek blues,” for its heroic, blunt truth-telling in the face of suffering. This collection of heavy songs from the style’s “golden era” in the years surrounding WWII includes many of the “heavy-hitters,” great and revered singers and composers, but also includes many obscure artists, including several from the influential American diaspora. For fans of the style, if offers brilliant lesser-known pieces and for the uninitiated, it cuts to the heart of rembetika’s no-bullshit swagger, grief, and fierce beauty.
v/a – To What Strange Place : The Music Of The Ottoman-American Diaspora, 1916-1929
Before the Golden Age of Americana on Record, immigrants from the dissolving Ottoman Empire were singing their joys and sorrows to disc in New York City. The virtuosic musicians from Anatolia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Levant living in the U.S. who recorded between WWI and the Depression are presented here across two discs, along with a third disc of masterpieces they imported as memories on shellac-and-stone. The intermingled lives and musics of Christians, Jews, and Muslims represent Middle Eastern culture as it existed within the U.S. a century ago. A fascinating, new view of American Folk Music. Compiled by IAN NAGOSKI. Designed by Susan Archie.
Arizona Dranes – Available Sept 4th
A singer sits at the piano and loses all inhibitions while in complete control of the instrument: Little Richard, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis. Although church singer Arizona Dranes doesn’t come close to the stature of those icons, she set the mold for rockin’ singer/ pianists in 1926 with six “test records” that have stood the test of time.
Until now, very little has been correctly reported about Dranes other than the facts that she was blind, from Texas, had a piercing Pentecostal voice and was the first recording artist to play piano in the secular styles of the day, while singing words of deep praise.
Michael Corcoran, former music critic and columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, has spent years unearthing revelatory details on the life of the mysterious woman behind the music. The book includes a CD containing all 16 of Arizona Dranes’ recorded tracks, expertly remastered from the original OKeh label 78 RPM records by Grammy-winning producer Christopher King.
The book will also be available digitally (without the music) as an eBook.
Harry Taussig’s First Album in 47 Years
“Fate Is Only Twice, his first album in nearly five decades, reaffirms the earlier work’s implication that Taussig registers as a lost master.” - Pitchfork
Available on LP/ CD / DL
Read a feature about Harry Taussig and Mark Fosson via Pitchfork
Released as a short-run private press LP in 1965, ‘Fate Is Only Once’ has long been a coveted collectible among American Primitive guitar enthusiasts. The album presages the broader movement. Acoustic musicians were still largely stuck in a rigid “Folk” mindset in 1965, and there are just not that many other examples of the exploratory guitar sounds found on ‘Fate’ during this time period. Alternating between haunting originals and jaunty blues-based traditional numbers, this absurdly rare LP was reissued by Tompkins Square in 2006. Taussig’s only other recorded works appear on the long out-of-print Takoma compilation ‘Contemporary Guitar Spring ‘67′ alongside John Fahey, Robbie Basho, Max Ochs and Bukka White. Taussig spent years as an educator, published instructional guitar books, and traveled extensively to photograph weird museums.
Amazingly, he returns with his first album in 47 years, appropriately titled ‘Fate Is Only Twice’. The same stark, smoldering playing is evident, all the humor and inventiveness intact.
Mark Fosson – LP/CD/DL June 26th
Kentucky native Mark Fosson recorded one album for John Fahey’s Takoma Records in 1976 which went unreleased until 2006. Mark recently found the home demos for that session. Here’s what he has to say about them :
“These 11 tracks are the songs I began writing after acquiring my first 12-String guitar. I recorded them in my living room on a Pioneer RT1050 2-track reel-to-reel with a rented microphone (I believe It was an AKG414 but I won’t swear to it). All are originals except for “Back In The Saddle Again” which resulted from my other obsession at the time of watching old black & white Gene Autry movies any chance I could…usually at 5:00AM! I met Mr. Autry many years later and tried to tell him this but the crowd was too loud & his ears were too old & he couldn’t hear a word I was saying. Anyway…thanks Gene.
Most of these songs would appear later in slightly altered form on ‘The Lost Takoma Sessions’, but these original versions are my personal favorites. I can’t believe the tapes have survived so long and still sound as clean as the day I recorded them.”
- Mark Fosson