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Younger Than Yesterday: Digging In The Dust

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Released last year on the Tompkins Square label, ‘Digging In The Dust’ comprises the famous sessions recorded by Mark Fosson with John Fahey in 1976. With Fosson on a 12-string acoustic, the sessions would never see the light of day (Fahey’s Takoma label soon folded) until Drag City issued ‘The Lost Takoma Sessions’ in 2006 – some thirty years later. ‘Digging In The Dust’ would be the “original, unaltered” sessions from ’76, recorded with Fahey in Los Angeles; and is as timeless a gem as they come; beautiful in all its dusty glory. 

Words & Illustration: Craig Carry


Last year was my first introduction to the incredible Mark Fosson. My introduction came courtesy of a copy of ‘Digging In The Dust’, a record issued in 2012 on the Tompkins Square label. The sleeve depicts a sepia photograph of a young Fosson in concentration as he plays a twelve-string acoustic guitar. What caught my attention most of all was the date written on the front: “Home Recordings 1976”. For as anyone who feels compelled to browse the racks of a trusted independent record store will know, we should never turn our eyes away from a newly issued release from a bygone era. Over the last number of years, certain records by the likes of Linda Perhacs, Mark Fry, Kath Bloom and Vashti Bunuyan have all found their ways onto the shelves of record shops only for a new generation of music lovers to embrace them into their own collections (and lives).

So, as I found myself with a copy of ‘Digging In The Dust’, in my own local independent record store (Plugd Records) I knew a similar sense of magic would soon reveal itself through the record in my hands. If any convincing was necessary, Fosson’s short message on the back of the sleeve would convince anyone to make the purchase:

“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.”

The story of Mark Fosson – a Kentucky native – is very much connected with John Fahey and his Takoma Records label. In the seventies, Fosson sent a number of demos to Fahey’s West-Coast label Takoma. Fahey was impressed with what he heard and offered Fosson a recording deal. In turn, Fosson moved from his Kentucky home to Los Angeles and embarked on a number of recordings with Fahey. Due to great misfortune, however, the Takoma Records label (in financial difficulty) would shortly fold. Crucially, though, Fahey would let Fosson keep possession of those prized master tapes from the sessions. For the next number of decades Fosson would record a number of albums and collaborations, beginning with the formation of the Bum Steers (alongside songwriter Edward Tree) in the eighties; a number of soundtracks in the nineties (including the 1992 Allison Anders film ‘Gas, Food Lodging’) and a solo project entitled ‘Jesus On A Greyhound’ released on Big Otis Records.

It was those treasured sessions with Fahey that proved most sought-after, however, and in 2006 – some thirty years later – Chicago based Drag City Records would finally release “The Lost Takoma Sessions”. The eleven tracks present in the ‘Digging In The Dust’ cut – released last year on Tompkins Square – would be the unaltered, original recordings, the versions Fosson himself had hoped in earnest would someday see the light of day.

‘Digging In The Dust’ comprises nine pieces (all performed on Fosson’s first 12-string guitar) and concludes with a couple of alternate takes (of ‘Frozen Fingers’ and ‘Quarter Moon’). It’s only fitting that the wonderful people at Tompkins Square would issue this long-lost gem in all its former glory. Particularly as the label champions such wonderful contemporary musicians (William Tyler’s debut solo record ‘Behold The Spirit’ was released by the label) it also sees the necessity to champion those artists who were so influential to a new generation of musicians who never had their rightful widespread acclaim in their own time.

Mark Fosson concludes his essay on the ‘Digging In The Dust’ sleeve by stating: “It’s been a real joy rediscovering these tunes….Hope you will enjoy them.” For the many of a new generation discovering Fosson for the first time, and on listening to ‘Digging In The Dust’, we can say , with our hearts, “Thank you, Mark Fosson, for the real joy you’ve given to each and every one of us.”


‘Digging In The Dust: Home Recordings 1976’ by Mark Fosson is out now on the Tompkins Square label.

Written by admin

March 10, 2013 at 11:46 am

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