September 9th, 2012

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.

August 20th, 2012

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.

NPR All Things Considered

July 31st, 2012

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.

Hear a song

June 20th, 2012

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

Stream the album at Fretboard Journal

April 23rd, 2012

‘Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done : Friends Play Michael Chapman’- Available May 29th

Michael Chapman began his career on the Cornish folk circuit in 1967. Signed to the Harvest label, home to Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, he recorded four quasi-legendary albums. The influential ‘Fully Qualified Survivor’ was John Peel’s favorite record of 1970, and featured future Bowie collaborator Mick Ronson. After decades of recording and touring, Chapman remained an obscure figure in the States until his profile was raised by a lengthy 2009 interview with big fan Thurston Moore in Fretboard Journal. He toured extensively with the late guitarist Jack Rose, and more recently, with Bill Callahan. Seattle-based indie label Light in the Attic began a reissue campaign of his Harvest work, and Tompkins Square released the internationally acclaimed double disc, ‘Trainsong : Guitar Compositions, 1967-2010‘.

All this has brought newfound attention to a singular guitarist and songwriter.

‘Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done : Friends Play Michael Chapman’, compiled by Michael’s wife Andru and Tompkins Square’s Josh Rosenthal, features artists who have shared a stage with Michael, or share a personal connection. These include some of his contemporaries like Bridget St. John, Maddy Prior, and longtime cohort Rick Kemp (Steeleye Span), as well as young guns inspired by Michael’s legacy.

BUY IT

Track listing :

1. Black Twig Pickers – Life on the Ceiling
2. D. Charles Speer – Expressway in the Rain
3. Lucinda Williams – That Time of Night (LISTEN)
4. Thurston Moore – It Didn’t Work Out
5. Meg Baird – No Song To Sing (LISTEN)
6. Maddy Prior – The Prospector
7. Hiss Golden Messenger – Fennario
8. Rick Kemp – Vanity and Pride
9. Two Wings – You Say
10. Nick Jonah Davis – Little Molly’s Dream
11. Bridget St. John – Rabbit Hills
12. William Tyler – Naked Ladies and Electric Ragtime

March 23rd, 2012

Tompkins Square Rolls Out Line of 78RPM Records

San Francisco-based record label Tompkins Square announces the first in a series of releases in the 78 rpm 10″ vinyl format.

The first two will feature previously unreleased recordings from Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), and Ralph Stanley. Both 78’s will be released as a limited edition of 500 copies on Record Store Day, April 21, 2012. Please note : These 78’s will not be sold on this site – they will only be available via independent record stores.

Luther Dickinson plays medleys of Southern melodies on his 78, including “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah/Beautiful Dreamer” on the A side and “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen/Peace in the Valley” on the B side. Ralph Stanley’s 78 features “Single Girl”, with “Little Birdie” on the B side.

Tompkins Square owner Josh Rosenthal comments, “A lot of new turntables play 78’s, and many 78 collectors listen to their records on modern equipment. Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe have all recently released 78’s. So I thought it would be fun to start a line of them.”

The label will also release a white label 45 of Hiss Golden Messenger’s “Jesus Shot Me in The Head” from the forthcoming album ‘Poor Moon’, b/w the unreleased “Jesus Dub,” on Record Store Day.

Hiss Golden Messenger’s album “Poor Moon” is set for release April 17th.

HEAR LUTHER DICKINSON’s 78RPM B Side

March 13th, 2012

Hiss Golden Messenger – out April 17th


“Mystical country, like an eerie yellowing photograph” – David Bowie

“A small but grand statement, recorded in a week, but achieving country-soul greatness”
- UNCUT * * * * stars

“MC Taylor writes folk music that is at once firmly steeped in tradition and immediately accessible.”
- NPR Music

“Fans of Will Oldham and Bill Callahan will find much to admire in the work of MC Taylor, a revivalist who also lectures in folklore.”
- Guardian UK

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Hiss Golden Messenger is Durham, North Carolina-based songwriter M.C. Taylor, in partnership with multi-instrumentalist and recordist Scott Hirsch, who lives in Brooklyn, New York. The pair have been playing music together for nearly two decades. Poor Moon is the fourth proper Hiss Golden Messenger release, and serves as the best summation thus far of Taylor’s lone journeys through the dark night of the soul. “God is good, and it’s understood,” he sings. “But he moves in mysterious ways.”

Taylor and Hirsch are clear that they draw inspiration from a variety of sources, including the blue-collar mysticism of Ronnie Lane and Richard & Linda Thompson; the high haunted atmospheres of John Martyn and Talk Talk; and American vernacular music writ large (from Archie Brownlee to the Staple Singers; Charlie Poole to Merle Haggard). Yet for all that, Poor Moon is a singular vision, one that only two companions could have made after twenty years of music-making, revelry, and repent.

Features members of Brightblack Morning Light, D. Charles Speer & The Helix and Black Twig Pickers

STREAM IT

January 23rd, 2012

Aimer et Perdre : To Love & To Lose Songs, 1917-1934

AVAILABLE NOW
Produced by Chris King (Charley Patton, Bristol Sessions, People Take Warning)
Original Artwork by Robert Crumb

This is one from the heart. The unique pre-war music of the Cajun bayous, the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine and Poland, and the American rural countryside has been collected to narrate the human odyssey of love gained and love lost. Early songs of unbridled anticipation and desperate longing color the canvas of love, courtship, dejection and marriage… a never-ending cycle. The accompanying 60-page booklet features many rare, previously unpublished images and comprehensive lyrical translation. Three original artworks by Robert Crumb provide a backdrop for these sublime songs of passion and despair. Respectfully crafted by Christopher King and Susan Archie for Tompkins Square. 36 Songs on 2CDs.

December 4th, 2011

Calvin Keys – “Shawn-Neeq” 180g vinyl reissue out January 10th !

Originally released on the influential label Black Jazz in 1971, guitarist Calvin Keys’ debut is a stone classic waiting to be re-discovered. The funky, deep grooves and Calvin’s singular guitar stylings, coupled with a heady collaborative feel that inhabits so many early ’70’s jazz recordings, are all on beautiful display. 40 years later, Tompkins Square proudly re-issues this LP on 180g vinyl just in time for Calvin’s 70th Birthday (February 6th, 2012). Calvin will play a special record release show at Yoshi’s in San Francisco on January 9th.

Calvin’s musical roots originate in his hometown of Omaha, NE, playing with legends like Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson. Shortly after the release of his debut LP ‘Shawn-Neeq’, Calvin was hired to tour and record with Ray Charles. By the mid-70’s, Calvin was working steadily with pianist Ahmad Jamal on the road and in the studio. Since settling in the Bay Area in the mid-70’s, Calvin has recorded numerous solo albums and played with many greats, including Taj Mahal, Bobby Hutcherson, Big John Patton and Dr. Lonnie Smith. In 2007, fellow Midwesterner and big fan Pat Metheny included the song “Calvin’s Keys” on his album, ‘Day Trip’.

September 8th, 2011

This May Be My Last Time Singing : Raw African-American Gospel on 45RPM 1957-1982


Get ready for fiery sanctified soul, heavy Pentecostal jams, drum machine gospel, slow-burning moaners, glorified guitar sermons and righteously ragged a cappela hymns! The music on this compilation was originally released on small label 45s, mostly in the 1960s and ’70s. At least one-third of the records were self-released, paid for by a church congregation or the artists themselves. Others were on regional labels (typically run by one single producer) little known today outside of a small circle of collectors. This vibrant music is incredibly honest and almost criminally unknown.

All tracks were sourced from 45s collected over the last decade by compiler Mike McGonigal, who also produced 2009’s three disc set Fire in My Bones: Raw + Rare + Otherworldly African-American Gospel (1944-2007) for Tompkins Square. McGonigal, who has compiled records for Mississippi Records and his own Social Music label, lives in Portland, OR where he is the editorial director for Yeti Publications. He writes in the liner notes that he “chose to source this compilation entirely from 45s because of their democratic/DIY nature; almost anyone could raise enough money to release a seven-inch single.”

“Maybe you’ll feel like I did on first hearing these tracks, that you’ve stumbled in on someone else’s tenderly private moment. Or that you’ve been swept up in a collective delirium. You’ll hear deep soulfulness here, with heavy admixtures of rhythm and blues and rock’n'roll. There are echoes of ’60s and ’70s pop too. You’ll also catch bits of country and western, and something like surf guitar. In another way, much here uncannily resembles the unruly sound and spirit of 1960s garage. Give yourself over to this compilation: there’s delight and surprise in every track.”

-PETER DOYLE, author of Echo and Reverb: Fabricating Space in Popular Music Recording, 1900-1960; The Devil’s Jump and Crooks Like Us