May 3rd, 2010

Roland White Reissue out June 1

Tompkins Square reissues an obscure treasure on June 1, 2010.
Roland White’s 1976 solo album ‘I Wasn’t Born To Rock ‘N Roll’, originally issued on the Ridge Runner Records label, is re-mastered from the original tapes and released for the very first time on CD.
Roland White, along with his brother Clarence, made bluegrass and country music history as members of the Kentucky Colonels. Roland also played in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys and Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass, and later in Country Gazette and the Nashville Bluegrass Band. Clarence famously played with the Byrds, among many others, until his tragic death in 1973.
This album features Alan Munde, Kenny Wertz, Roger Bush and Dave Ferguson playing traditional tunes, as well as a composition called “Powder Creek”, co-written by Roland & Clarence. This was the first appearance of this special tune on an album, a song which Roland now describes as having been composed with his brother on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1963!
The package includes original liner notes by Gene Parsons (The Byrds), new reflections from Roland, original album artwork, and one unreleased bonus track not included on the original LP!

March 19th, 2010

Alex Chilton Interview

I interviewed Alex Chilton on September 17, 1987 in Albany NY before his appearance that evening at a club called QE2. It was the peak of my Big Star fandom, and I was in awe of my polite if somewhat cranky hero. Maybe it was just that he was in Albany . . . The interview appeared in the Dec. 1987 issue of local rag Buzz Magazine. I recorded it, but I doubt I have the tape. I was lucky enough to save the magazine, and my three signed Big Star LPs. Here is the interview in its entirety :

Alex Chilton ordered the stuffed quail. (At the restaurant Quintessence- ed.) When it arrived, he offered me a piece but I refused. The salad was the best salad Alex Chilton said he’d ever eaten. There was a slab of cheese that looked like feta, but Alex insisted it was parmesan. It was feta. But Alex is from Memphis. There can’t be much feta cheese in Memphis. He didn’t want to be interviewed in the restaurant, so we sat, Alex , his two band members and I, and stared out the window. He didn’t want to be interviewed at all. The following conversation took place in his Isuzu or one of those mid sized vans :

JR: Do you understand the “pop-god” biling you’ve received ?
AC: Not really but . . . (pause)

JR: How do you feel about the Replacements song ?
AC: Uh well, I didn’t feel any way about it. I mean I’m so used to having uh you know these kind of fawning, imbecilic fans you know. To have it take on some coherence is refreshing.

JR: It seems that Big Star means more now with a modern perspective than it did when it was actually happening.
AC: It’s hard for me, you know, to understand what a young person, or a person younger than myself must perceive of that stuff. I know how nowhere it was for us at the time you know, we just made this record and worked for about a year on it cause we had time in the studio. We could do anything we wanted at the studio and the people at this place were pretty sharp technically so we did it. So we just made this record like we wanted it to sound. You know, we just made the best record we could and put it out and there was swome critical response and stuff like that and then we couldn’t sell it. Am I in your way ??!! (Yells at blocking vehicle)

JR: Do you like touring ?
AC: Yeah

JR: What about interviews ?
AC: Yeah, I don’t particularly like doing interviews but I guess getting press is a helpful thing.

JR: In your solo work, particularly No Fun and Feudalist Tarts and the new LP High Priest, there’s a sharp leaning towards the blues and less so, funk. Where does all that stem from ?
AC: I don’t know. I guess that I’m not a real fluent sort of musician, you know I’m not like Charlie Parker or somebody and so I can do some primtive sorts of blues sometimes better than a lot of other things . . . When I was playing with that group Big Star in the 70’s, they were anti-blues, the rest of the members of the group, you know, so I didn’t want to rock the boat.

JR: How do you feel about you experience with Big Star now ?
AC: You know Chris Bell, that was kinda the other leader of the band or somethin like that, was somebody whose music I dug and I feel like I learned a lot from playing with him and learned a lot about recording. It was a time in my life when I made progress.

JR: Do you feel like you’re making progress now ?
AC: Yeah

JR: You really like the new album ?
AC: Yeah. I worked hard on it.

JR: What about the title High Priest ? Is that sort of a double entendre that you like ?
AC: Maybe more like triple or quadruple. There are two songs on the record that are sort of gospel tunes and one about the Dalai Lama who if there was ever a highpriest he’s gotta be the highest one, I mean 19,000 feet or something, you know. And then you know this whole Jim & Tami that’s been shaking up you know, that’s why there’s a picture of a church ont he front and me in front of a motel on the back and then Ray Charles called himself the high priest and I’ve always been a Ray Charles fan.

JR: You just finished up a reunion tour with the Box Tops, right ?
AC: (pissed) I wasn’t saying that, no. Each summer there’s a guy who gets together a revue of 60’s groups and that comes in the summer.

JR: Let’s get back to the so-called Alex Chilton pop-god phenomenon. How do you perceive that thing ? Who are your fans ?
AC: I see the people who come to my dates. They seem to be college students who don’t look like Ramones fans, they don’t look like Cramps fans, you know, they’re not all dressed in black. You know, they wear colorful clothing. They just seem like normal college students.

JR: Do you enjoy listening to old Box Tops and Big Star records ?
AC: I don’t listen to my own records to often although I guess I’ve been listening to some of the more recent stuff lately and getting a kick out of that. Big Star has five or six songs I dig listening to and the Box Tops, I guess there are a few things I enjoy. It’s a kick to hear old Box Tops songs on the radio . . .

JR: When was the last time you were in Albany ?
AC: The Sixties

February 11th, 2010

Giuseppi Logan – 2.23.10

“A fantastic return to form for Giuseppi Logan — a contemporary record, but one that grabs us with just as much force as his famous 60s album for ESP!” –

“An astonishing comeback record” – All Music Guide (4 stars)

Legendary saxophonist Giuseppi Logan will release his first album in 45 years on NYC’s Tompkins Square label, February 23, 2009.

Logan recorded two albums for the ESP label in the mid-60’s featuring Eddie Gomez, Don Pullen and Milford Graves, The Giuseppi Logan Quartet and More.

The Giuseppi Logan Quintet, recorded in September 2009, reunites Logan with two of his closest collaborators from the ’60’s, pianist Dave Burrell and drummer Warren Smith. Also joining him on the session are Francois Grillot, bass and Matt Lavelle, trumpet and bass clarinet. The album features five brand new Logan compositions, and several standards.

Logan will maintain his rigorous schedule of appearances around the New York City area with his group, as well as his steady solo gig in the NW corner of Tompkins Square Park.

*** A limited number of Autographed copies are now available exclusively via ***

January 7th, 2010

A Broken Consort – Crow Autumn – 2.09.10

Tompkins Square label will release ‘Crow Autumn’ by A Broken Consort on CD, LP and digitally, February 9th, 2010. The vinyl LP is a limited edition of 500.

‘Crow Autumn’ is the latest album by English composer Richard Skelton, who releases haunting and evocative music under a variety of guises through his own much-acclaimed Sustain-Release Private Press. From Clouwbeck to Heidika, Carousell to Riftmusic, his recordings brim with intensity and stark beauty, redolent of the landscapes that inspire them.

Recording here as A Broken Consort – his most prolific and successful pseudonym – Skelton expertly builds on the achievements of last year’s Box Of Birch, creating a dense-yet-delicate weave of textures from a broad palette of acoustic instruments, including guitar, mandolin, piano, violin and accordion. The result is a stunning sequence of swells and eddies, culminating in the orchestral intensity of ‘The River’, with its torrent of interleaved violin melodies and seething undertow.

With Crow Autumn, Skelton has created a work of enduring beauty that should firmly establish him as one of England’s most uniquely talented contemporary artists, capable of rendering with a fine brush the visceral majesty of the natural landscape.

December 6th, 2009

Remembering Jack

On November 20, 15 days ago, I saw Jack Rose’s final performance in NYC. I first saw Jack on March 11, 2004 at Washington Square Church on W. 4th St. He graciously contributed to three compilations on Tompkins Square, and over the years we stayed in touch. Jack stayed on my couch a couple times, played with my older daughter Emma, and sorted through my record collection. He knew all the nuances of all of the different versions of all my John Fahey early pressings. He’d usually send me an email invite when he was coming to NYC to play. I remember early on he picked me up at the Phili train station and we went back to his house, of course we rifled through the records, and later he performed at a Fishtown space where Harris Newman played as well. I hooked Jack up with Peter Walker and they toured. I remember his gig with Michael Chapman at Knitting Factory, and his one with Bridget St. John at Tonic. He played a show I organized at Housing Works in NYC with Glenn Jones, Sean Smith, and Max Ochs. I flew him in for a Tompkins Square show at SXSW one year. Earlier this year he contacted me to possibly put his new record out. I am so grateful to have worked with him some.

Jack was a sweet person. He would always let you know what was on his mind, even if it was not particularly what you wanted to hear. His vast knowledge of pre-war blues and post-war guitar was immense. His playing felt like it channeled through him from somewhere else. At times it seemed effortless. Jack was an experimental player but he was also very formal, disciplined and traditional as well.

At the last show, I got to slip Jack a new gospel comp I put out, and he gave me his new album with the Black Twigs. After the set I gave him a hug and said see you next time. We exchanged emails a few days ago – he said he really dug the gospel set, and I said what a joy it was to see him play, and how much I enjoyed the Twigs. I am really grateful that I had that interaction that now feels like closure, whereas I am sure many many people would have liked to hug him or say goodbye somehow.

I remember one long conversation we had about his trajectory as a player years ago. He said when Fahey died, he and other musicians said “Now what?”. I’m sure plenty of folks will now pose the same question about Jack. He leaves behind a fantastic body of work, and a legacy that is indeed larger than life.

- Josh Rosenthal, NYC

October 2nd, 2009

Fire in My Bones : Raw, Rare & Otherworldly African-American Gospel, 1944-2007

Almost 4 hours of music on 3 discs – super-compelling, undiluted, stripped-down gospel!

Portland & Seattle Record Release events :

Sunday January 17, 8PM – Late
VALENTINE’S: 232 SW Ankeny St Portland, OR 97253 (503) 248-1613
All star all gospel DJ session — Mike McGonigal DJ’s alongside
Portland’s very finest: DJ Hwy 7, DJ Worms, DJ Beyonda Doubt.
Admission: Free

Friday Jan 22, 6 – 8PM
FRYE ART MUSEUM: 704 Terry Avenue Seattle, Washington 98104 (206) 622-9250
Mike McGonigal DJ’ing hip-hop + gospel to accompany the Opening
Reception for “Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History”
Admission: for members/ by invite only

Saturday Jan. 23, 1 – 6PM
WALL OF SOUND RECORDS: 315 East Pine Street Seattle, WA 98122-2028
(206) 441-9880 /
‘Fire In My Bones’ CD Party — Celebrating the release of the 4 hour
compilation with five hours straight of rare + raw gospel DJ’ed by
Mike McG.

The majority of this music has never been reissued on CD, or in any other form (most tracks were originally released on regional independent labels). Most post-WWII compilations of African-American gospel music naturally concentrate on the astounding quartet and solo vocalist sounds made during the music’s Golden Age. Fire In My Bones attempts to address and collect more neglected sounds from that era (and on to the present day). Dozens of traditions are represented. Some go back hundreds of years while others seem to have been arrived at as soon as the tape began to roll. Field recordings and studio tracks are all mashed together, with solo performances next to congregational recordings, hellfire sermons next to afterlife laments. Leon Pinson, Elder & Sister Brinson & the Brinson Brothers, Grant & Ella, Straight Street Holiness Group, Theotis Taylor, Brother & Sister W B Grate — these artists will now be just a little less obscure.

Fire In My Bones provides a small peek at the incredible diversity and power of post-war black gospel. Much of this music is raw, distorted and might sound a bit strange. But it is not presented as a novelty freak show or as “outsider music.” This is gospel – which we must always remember translates as “the good news” – as it has been sung and performed in tiny churches and large programs, from rural Georgia to urban Los Angeles. It is clearly among the most vibrant, playful, beautiful and emotionally charged music in the world.

Produced by Mike McGonigal. Package by Susan Archie. Available everywhere Oct. 27th.

September 8th, 2009

Frank Farifield’s Debut Album on CD/LP/DL 9.29.09

“A young Californian who sings and plays as someone who’s crawled out of the Virginia mountains carrying familiar songs that in his hands sound forgotten: broken lines, a dissonant drone, the fiddle or the banjo all percussion, every rising moment louder than the one before it.”
— Greil Marcus

California-based fiddle, guitar, and banjo player, and ardent 78 collector Frank Fairfield has made his living as a musician, often found playing on the streets of Los Angeles. Handpicked by Fleet Foxes to open their U.S. tour last year, Frank released a 7″ on Tompkins Square and recorded his self-titled debut album. His 7″ won over tough critics and purists like Grammy winning producer Chris King (Charley Patton, People Take Warning box set), Phil Alexander (Mojo) and Greil Marcus, to name a few.

From Liner Notes by John Tottenham:

“Few questions can be satisfactorily answered about Frank Fairfield, mostly because he keeps to himself. He seems to be at once very open to share his insights, but yet in no way willing to give away his secrets. He was born in the San Joaquin Valley of California. He speaks of his grandfather leaving Texas to pick crops around the country, a constant traveler, a musician, who eventually “got religion” and settled in Kettleman City, Kings County as a pastor. Dust storms, tumbleweeds, cotton crops. . . this imagery has been richly cultivated in Fairfield’s young mind. Somewhere along the road Frank Fairfield finds himself and begins to play his grandfather’s old fiddle, picks up the banjo and gitbox, and starts playing the tunes of old with great conviction, learning many songs from the collection of rural gramophone records he has hungrily hunted down.”

August 21st, 2009

Red Fox Chasers review by Amanda Petrusich

Excepting those preternaturally drawn to trawling auctions and flea markets for old crates of 78s, most traditional country fans haven’t heard much of the Red Fox Chasers, a four-man string band from the northwestern corner of North Carolina, deep in the Appalachian mountains. I’m Going Down to North Carolina is the first complete anthology of the band’s work, which consists of less than 40 sides and a handful of bootlegging skits, recorded between 1928 and 1931. It’s a raucous, revelatory collection of old-time mountain music. The four neighbors and pals – vocalist and harmonica player Bob Cranford, vocalist and banjo-strummer Paul Miles, guitarist A.P. Thompson, and fiddler Guy Brooks – sing, strum and wail with high, Appalachian aplomb.

The band’s biography is riddled with folksy details — Miles’ first banjo was made from a meal sifter! Brooks bought his fiddle with money he saved up from selling hand-collected chestnuts for a dollar a bushel! They all learned to sing at a two-week shape-note singing tutorial led by an itinerant teacher! — but the music transcends any aw-shucks trappings. A mix of minstrel tunes, Tin Pan Alley cuts, disaster songs, ballads and tracks made more famous by Charlie Poole (“May I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight, Mister?”), the Carter Family (“Little Sweetheart, Pal of Mine”), and Uncle Dave Macon (“Sweet Bye and Bye”), I’m Going Down to North Carolina is a comprehensive introduction to string band music, and a testament to the Chasers’ dexterity and glee. Like any good mountain band, there’s a healthy tension between the sacred and the profane, and the band’s liquor-soaked “Virginia Bootleggers” – sung to the tune of “The River of Jordan,” an old gospel song – even got poor Guy Brooks kicked out of his church. Which is possibly the highest endorsement of all.

August 17th, 2009

Red Fox Chasers out now ! Record Release Events in NYC

June 1st, 2009

Ben Reynolds – How Day Earnt Its Night

Tompkins Square has amassed a formidable catalog of acclaimed acoustic guitar recordings, from reissues of seminal works by Robbie Basho, Richard Crandell and Harry Taussig to contemporary masters James Blackshaw, Peter Walker and Brad Barr. The label’s ‘Imaginational Anthem Vols.1-3′ guitar anthology received 4 1/2 stars in All Music Guide, with AMG’s Thom Jurek stating, “These are all essential recordings.”

Next up is Ben Reynolds, an English solo steel string guitarist and songwriter. In his solo instrumental works, he draws upon the vast well of musical inspiration native to the British Isles as well as that found across the Atlantic and beyond.

Outside of Ben’s solo work, he is a member of Glasgow-based songsters Trembling Bells, whose debut album ‘Carbeth’ on London label Honest Jon’s has received ecstatic praise from the likes of Joe Boyd and Will Oldham.

‘How Day Earnt Its Night’ consolidates his interest in British and American folk guitar traditions in concise and intensely melodic pieces as well as longer, expressionist improvisations. The intricacies of British guitar luminaries such as Bert Jansch and Davy Graham are found alongside the stark grandeur of John Fahey’s ‘American primitive guitar’ stylings.