FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘John Fahey

Chosen One: Glenn Jones

leave a comment »

Interview with Glenn Jones.

“My closest friendships have been with people who share my love for the instrument — John Fahey, Jack Rose. I think about them everyday and every time I pick up the guitar.”

—Glenn Jones

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

glennjones_mygardenstate_craigcarry

The steel-string acoustic guitar as a solo instrument is one of those treasured sounds where a kaleidoscope of colour and feeling illuminates from the embers of a past not yet arrived upon. The timeless sound dispelled by this age-old tradition is nothing short of staggering, whose trajectory — some would say — points back to one pivotal figure, namely John Fahey. The late American fingerstyle guitarist has played a hugely influential role in developing the American Primitivism movement that, in turn, has led to a seamless array of awe-inspiring guitar talent. The self-taught nature of the music and its minimalist style lies at the heart of Fahey’s work that flows effortlessly into the new generation of guitarists such as William Tyler (Merge), Daniel Bachman (Tompkins Square), Cian Nugent (No Quarter Rex) and not-too-distant generations such as Mark Fosson (Tompkins Square) and not least, Glenn Jones (Thrill Jockey). The devotees of the Takoma School of guitarists are a joy to behold.

2013 marked the release of several indispensable instrumental guitar records: the latest opus from Nashville native William Tyler (‘Impossible Truth’), a new batch of transcendent psychedelic appalachia courtesy of Virginia’s Daniel Bachman (‘Jesus I’m A Sinner’) and the latest masterpiece from guitar luminary Glenn Jones (‘My Garden State’). His latest Thrill Jockey full-length release is a tour de force of storytelling greatness — expressed by the steel strings of Jones’ beloved acoustic guitar rather than the mere usage of words — where a vivid sense of longing, joy, sorrow and hope is cast by the guitarist’s deft touch of hand.

‘My Garden State’ is the follow-up to 2011’s ‘The Wanting’. Two years previously, ‘Barbecue Bob In Fishtown’ was unleashed into the world, following on from Jones’ prolific psych-folk based outfit of Cul De Sac. Over the course of a twenty year history, the nine albums released by the Boston-based collective (Jones on guitar joined Robin Amos on synthesizer, sampler, production and engineering) wonderfully experimented with the folk tradition and farther reaches of psychedelia and ambient terrain. Esteemed collaborations included Damo Suzuki (Can) and guitarist John Fahey. One of their towering achievements must be the band’s fifth studio album, entitled ‘Death Of The Sun’. Album closer ‘I Remember Nothing More’ – built from the sample of an old Cajun 78 — a ghostly voice is repeated over a meditative drumbeat and swirling acoustic guitar notes. A breathtaking moment that serves one of the many pinnacles of this very special band. Jones’ solo work has spanned naturally from those remarkable records.

‘My Garden State’ was written in the New Jersey home where Glenn Jones’ family moved in 1966, while he was caring for his mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. This newest collection of pieces for guitar and banjo represents a further evolution of Jones’ achingly beautiful instrumental music, whose combination of expressive playing and technical skill transcends space and time. Recorded by Laura Baird in Allentown, NJ, Laura joins Jones on ‘Across The Tappan Zee’ on banjo, interweaving her plaintive melodies with the delicate guitar playing by Jones. The piece is a journey that crosses the vast plains of America, crossing the great Mississippi River and into the heartland of Jones’ home-state of Jersey. A family tree is forged deep in the imprint of the sacred guitar melodies. ‘Going Back To East Montgomery’ is a sublime piece of music built upon a beautiful series of chord progressions — gradual and evocative — that indeed conjures up the sound of returning home. To something familiar yet somewhat unknown. The passing of time I feel is etched across the mid-section of the drone-guitar notes that are wonderfully sustained throughout. A gorgeous rise occurs later that serves one of the record’s many epiphanies. The spirits of mentor John Fahey and Robbie Basho are present across the eight or so heavenly minutes. Laura Baird’s sister Meg, who was a founding member of Espers and plays with Laura as the Baird Sisters, joins in on the closing minutes of ‘Going Back To East Montgomery’.

‘Alcouer Gardens’ contains use of field recordings where a crackling thunderstorm is bubbling underneath the mournful guitar melody. Despite the rain, there is something quite calming produced here. A dialogue — deep and personal — is on hand here, which in fact could well be a source of solace and shelter from the storm. A ballad to soothe your heart. Similar to ‘Alcouer Gardens’, the preceding instrumental cut ‘The Vernal Pool’ were composed spontaneously in the studio, a technique Jones developed on tour with Damo Suzuki with his former band Cul De Sac. ‘Like A Sick Eagle Looking At The Sky’ is a brooding lament that captures emotion in its rawest state. The alternate tunings are utilized to stunning effect here. ‘Bergen County Farewell’ serves the ideal counterpoint — like that of a colourful rainbow slowly forming after a torrential downpour — whose upbeat tempo and melodic refrain brings ‘My Garden State’ to a stunning close. Field recordings of chimes and the music of birds singing are the final notes you hear (‘Chimes II’) as Jones’ deeply personal and beautifully enriching journey reaches its end.

————

‘My Garden State’ is out now on Thrill Jockey.

As part of Record Store Day this year, Thrill Jockey issued ‘Welcomed Wherever I Go’ EP (vinyl-only, limited to 1000 copies) by Glenn Jones, comprising a brand new EP of archival and live recordings. ‘From A Forgotten Session’, taken from the EP, can be downloaded from Thrill Jockey’s Soundcloud page HERE.

http://www.thrilljockey.com

————

Interview with Glenn Jones.

Congratulations on the truly stunning ‘My Garden State’, Glenn. The album really plays out like such a beautiful journey and such a special sense of place and much emotion is distilled across each of the album’s ten tracks. The songs were written in the house you and your family had moved into and lived since 1966 and the house itself (and also your mother of course) act very much as the focal point for these songs; ‘Bergen County Farewell’ being written after the sale of your mother’s house. I would love to gain an insight into this writing process and the space in time in which these songs were written?

Glenn Jones: The album is a collection of my newest pieces for guitar and banjo and not much more than that, really. When I was recording the album, I still hadn’t thought of a title. In thinking about it, I realized that what the pieces had in common was that they were mostly written in the house in northern New Jersey where our family had moved to in 1966. Over a period of about two years, while my sisters and I took turns looking after my mom, the pieces were born, in part, in that house.

This, and the fact that the album was recorded in New Jersey as well gave me the idea for the title. I don’t know if its true for most composers, but I tend to associate a piece of music with where I was when I wrote it, who I was with, what I was doing, a season, a recollection of a time of day, the way the light came through the window, what I might have been feeling, even with the instrument it was written on, because sometimes the instrument tells you where to go.

So when I play ‘Across the Tappan Zee,’ for instance, I’m thinking of the drive south from Massachusetts, where I live, into New Jersey — a trip I’ve made so many times, it’s positively boring! Crossing the Tappan Zee bridge over the Hudson River and finally into northern Jersey — it’s a feeling of “journey’s end.”

————

You recorded the album with Laura and Meg Baird at their home studio who also add their wonderful touches to the album; adding banjo, guitar, and various sound recordings which add such a beautiful sense of texture and mood to the album and your own guitar playing. What was your experience like working and recording there and playing music with the Baird Sisters? I imagine it must have been the ideal setting to make the album itself?

GJ: Actually the home studio belongs to Les and Laura Baird; Meg is a frequent visitor, but doesn’t live there. (Meg was living in Philadelphia at the time I recorded the album, and has recently moved to San Francisco.)

But I take your point and yes, Forest Hill Farm was an idyllic spot to record. Its about a quarter mile off the main road, so it’s quiet, laid back — there’s that energizing feeling of being away from it all.

Which wouldn’t in itself mean much if the person I was working with wasn’t also supportive and indulgent — Laura was both those things and more. It was a terrific recording experience, one of the best I’ve had, and I think the feel of the album reflects that.

————

In terms of naming the album ‘My Garden State’, as well as the fact it obviously provided the location for where you both wrote and later recorded the album, it is also your home. Could you talk about New Jersey itself; what are your favorite places to see and things to do there?

GJ: No, my home is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I live with Nora and our two cats, Django and Hopscotch. Most of us grow up and leave our family homes, visiting it now and then, on holidays and such. Same with me. My visits there since I moved out in 1974 have tended to be short — a weekend, rarely longer. I’m not a particularly nostalgic person, so it wasn’t like I went out of my way to revisit my old high school or such scenes of former humiliations.

But suddenly I found myself forced by circumstances to be in places I didn’t typically make a point of visiting: the railroad tracks that pass through the town where I spent many hours with my boyhood friends; the neighborhood where my first girlfriend lived; the stores nearby (or what’s left of them) where I bought my books, my comics and records; the streets where I made the rounds as a teenager, delivering newspapers, my first job.

Waldwick is just another suburban town, but it was freighted with memories, whether I wanted to revisit them or not. This was the house where I came of age, where I was living when I became obsessed with music, where I got my first guitar at age 14, where so many cats, dogs, mice, hermit crabs and goldfish lived and died — where my father lived and died. This was my bedroom, where I listened to Bob Fas and Steve Post on WBAI, out of NYC, under the covers, on headphones, afraid to go to sleep for fear I’d miss something. Where I first listened to Love, Jimi Hendrix, Captain Beefheart, the Incredible String Band, as well as John Cage, Stockhausen, Xenakis and, most important for the future me, my first John Fahey and Robbie Basho albums.

Whether one is especially nostalgic or not, it’s hard not to feel something in such a place.

————

In terms of your writing practice, your songs — whether improvised or not — are always so expansive and contain so much substance and real feeling. What tends to be your preferred method for writing your music? Can the pieces be worked on laboriously over a long time or can they be written spontaneously?

GJ: Both, but I rarely improvise in concert, because I’m just not good enough to pull it off reliably. I always record some improvised pieces for each album however. Though not all of them make it onto the album, because not all of them are good enough. ‘My Garden State’ includes two improvised pieces, ‘The Vernal Pool’ and ‘Alcoeur Gardens,’ which were made up on the spot. Some of the composed pieces, ‘Like a Sick Eagle Looking at the Sky’ for instance, took more than a year to finish.

————

My favourite piece at the moment is ‘Alcoeur Gardens’, it seems to embody so much feeling and such a wonderful spirit, while the sounds of a thunderstorm is in the background behind your gentle, stunning guitar playing. I would love to gain an insight into this song’s construction?

GJ: Something I often do in the studio is to play along to something else, ambient sounds or whatever, something I can hear in the headphones as I’m playing, but which aren’t part of the finished piece. The listener is left with just half of the “dialogue.” It’s a way of building “space” into a performance. That was true of both improvised pieces on ‘My Garden State’, but I decided to include the ambient track — a recording of a thunderstorm that Laura had made — on ‘Alcoeur Gardens,’ to “reveal the device” so to speak.

————

Can you recount your first time picking up a guitar? What are your fondest memories of learning this instrument? What drew you to music to begin with?

GJ: Yes, it was my high school friend Mischa Falkenburg’s Goya classical guitar. I knew nothing about playing it, per se, but I loved the sound. I think he still has it!

Music was so important to young people of my generation, it was so exciting, there was so much to hear. For me and my friends, music was no casual interest, or just for entertainment. It was something we were obsessed with, that we listened to all our waking hours, something we debated and argued over.

————

There’s such a wealth of wonderful guitarists out there who are making such incredibly moving and evocative music, for example William Tyler, Daniel Bachman and Ryan Francesconi to name only a few. What do you think it is about instrumental guitar music that makes it so magical and special for musicians to play?

GJ: I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, writing for guitar and playing guitar gives me what little feeling of self-worth I have. The guitar has always lent itself to a personal expression, it’s small, easy to carry, suitable to so many, various styles.

My closest friendships have been with people who share my love for the instrument — John Fahey, Jack Rose. I think about them everyday and every time I pick up the guitar.

————

‘My Garden State’ LP and ‘Welcomed Wherever I Go’ EP are available now on Thrill Jockey.

http://www.thrilljockey.com

————

Written by admin

May 20, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Step Right Up: Daniel Bachman

leave a comment »

Born and raised in the town of Fredericksburg in Virginia, Daniel Bachman (whose guitar playing style has been dubbed “psychedelic appalachia”) is a guitarist of prodigious talent. This summer Bachman completed a hugely successful tour of Europe and will recommence touring his homeland when he tours the east coast of America this August.

Illustration & Words: Craig Carry

danielbachman_craigcarry

At only twenty-two years of age, Virginia-born Daniel Bachman has quietly established himself as one of the finest guitarists around. Listening to Bachman on record brings to mind an array of artists (from John Fahey to Mark Fosson and from William Tyler to Glenn Jones) and similarly transports the listener to a faraway space and time in a deeply engaging and enriching manner. Fittingly, Daniel shared the stage with both William Tyler and Mark Fosson last year while on his U.S. tour (Fosson joined him for the length of the tour while Tyler joined him while playing at his home of Nashville). Despite his tender age, Bachman has already released a lot of material of his own solo material. Formerly going under the pseudonym “Sacred Harp”, Bachman has been recording under his own name for the last couple of years. Bachman has released a multitude of material including tape cassette releases and strictly limited capacity material. His records “Oh Be Joyful” (released on the One Kind Favor label) and “Seven Pines” (put out by Tompkins Square) were both issued in 2012 and served to establish Bachman’s name in the minds of listeners in Europe as well as his native America.

My first time witnessing Daniel Bachman in a live setting was July 4th of this month. A sunny summer’s evening in the intimate setting of Gulpd Cafe (and organized by Plugd Records) served the perfect backdrop for the prodigious talents of Bachman. Witnessing the mastery of Bachman’s guitar playing (very much in the same mould as the “American Primitive” school as advocated by John Fahey in the late 50’s and 60’s) is an absolute joy to savor. Seeing first hand the masterful technique he has honed over the years is a sight to behold. Whether quietly plucking notes (where the notes are left to linger for a time) or strumming intricately picking out notes in a forceful-yet-emotive manner, the music at all times conveys such real feeling and true artistry. Seeing one musician making such incredibly dense, textured and nuanced work on his own is something to truly marvel at, and reminded me of seeing William Tyler perform solo this year (while on his “Practically Friends” tour alongside M.C. Taylor’s Hiss Golden Messenger) where a myriad of feelings and a vast array of impressions are cast upon the listener. The guitar and guitarist become one. And the listener is truly fortunate to witness such an inspiring occasion.

In fact, like Tyler, I listen to Bachman’s work as a storyteller. Despite having no words to tell, the music seems to communicate rich and immersive stories from experiences made by the artist who wishes to share, in turn, those poignant memories with us, the listeners. In fact, I feel words would only lessen the impact. We would suddenly have a particular idea or theme in our minds, whereas on listening to Bachman’s creations our imaginations can conjure up any number of themes, feelings, experiences. Listening to “Seven Pines” (the wonderful title-track or the sublime “Mount Olive Cohoke”) and “Oh Be Joyful” brings to mind scenes from Wim Wenders’ classic road movie “Paris Texas” where a man at odds with the world wanders the desert landscape under Ry Cooder’s evocative score. Additionally, I feel there is also a wonderful connection between such music as Bachman’s and that of the photobook, particularly such road trips across America made frozen in time by Robert Frank in his 1958 classic “The Americans.” Armed with a 35mm Leica, Frank traversed the length of the country by car and – through eighty-three finally selected photographs – Frank redefined photography in the process. His poetic pictures were created through his off-kilter, intuitive and immediate style. Such intuitive and immediate styles certainly can be seen in Bachman’s art also where it feels (listening to Bachman live and on record) that he’s creating the pieces almost as he plays them where sparks of creativity and raw honesty can be felt – and admired greatly – on every single note that is played.

Fittingly, “Seven Pines” was issued last year by independent label Tompkins Square, a label who had previously released such classic records as William Tyler’s “Behold The Spirit” and Hiss Golden Messenger’s “Poor Moon” (not to forget the aforementioned Mark Fosson and his classic Fahey sessions “Digging In The Dust”). The album was based around Bachman’s experiences made from living and working in Philadelphia over the course of a twelve-month spell. The resulting seven heavenly pieces of music hint at a wide array of feelings and experiences, from intense abandon and exhilaration to dazed wonderment and acute homesickness. A real sense of place is conjured up in each and every recording.

Bachman’s steel fingerstyle guitar playing is sure to only further establish his rightful place as one of the most exciting musical talents around as he continues on his beautiful journey.

————

“Seven Pines” is out now on Tompkins Square. “Oh Be Joyful” is out now on One Kind Favor and reissued on cd/digital by Debacle Records. 

Daniel Bachman tours USA this August (All tour dates are here)

http://www.tompkinssquare.com
http://www.onekindfavor.net
http://debaclerecords.bandcamp.com/album/oh-be-joyful

————

Chosen One: Mark Fosson

with one comment

Interview with Mark Fosson.

“It took about one day to pack and head for California…couldn’t wait to get there. Then the first thing that happened was I opened for Fahey at a place called Bob Baxter’s Guitar Workshop. I remember being backstage with John and he was changing his strings. He got the new ones on, hit a chord and immediately cut all the strings off! Did this three times till he was satisfied…Then he started playing some stuff and it was just incredible to hear him up close like that.”

Mark Fosson

Words: Mark & Craig Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

markfosson_1_craigcarry

(Note: The following opening essay was originally published in our previous article on “Digging In The Dust”).

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 reissued 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 feel compelled to browse the racks of a trusted independent record store will know, we should never turn our eyes away from 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 Bunyan have all found their ways onto the shelves of record shops only for a new generation of music lovers to embrace their music.

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.

It’s been a real joy rediscovering these tunes….Hope you will enjoy 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 of 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 hoped 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 ‘Digging In The Dust’ 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 of us.”

————

markfosson_craigcarry

Interview with Mark Fosson.

Please take me back to 1976 and your wonderful album ‘Digging In The Dust’. These joyous guitar instrumentals you began writing after acquiring your first 12 string guitar. Discuss the time and place that ‘Digging In The Dust’ was in effect, given its wings and created?

I had just been discharged from the Air Force and wasn’t working yet, so I had lots of time to write and play guitar, which is pretty much all I did!

————

‘Sky Piece’ is my current favourite. Can you shed some light on this piece please?

That’s one of my favorites too. Sky Piece is actually slang for a cowboy hat. I heard it in one of the old  westerns and stole it for a title. This was the first song I wrote in “C” tuning.

————

‘Digging In The Dust’ is such a beautiful title. It reminds me of a John Fante novel. Discuss the importance of this title please? It serves as an inspiring symbol that perfectly embodies the music.

Well, that’s the picture that went through my mind as I was looking through these old tapes. Sort of like an archaeological dig…not dead & gone, just covered with the dust of time.

————

Describe for me please the hold your precious 12-string guitar has on you and what is it about this instrument that inspires you?

I had always heard that 12-strings were harder to play but when I first picked one up it seemed way easier for me than a six-string. Maybe it was the wider neck. Somehow it seems more forgiving than a six-string, especially when you’re playing in open tuning, and the mistakes are not as glaringly apparent. Some of my best licks are mistakes!

————

Discuss for me please the importance that guitarist John Fahey has had on your life and career? He offered you a recording deal on his West Coast based Takoma Records label and you have often declared him as your biggest musical influence.

To me, Takoma Records was just the coolest label going back then. Seemed to be all I was listening to. I must have worn a hole clear through the Kottke/Lang/Fahey LP…and also “The Thing At The Nursery Room Window”…that was a definite favorite! It was the only label I wanted to be on and the only label I sent a tape to, so as you can guess, when they called and offered me a deal I was blown away! I figured I must be doing something right.

It took about one day to pack and head for California…couldn’t wait to get there. Then the first thing that happened was I opened for Fahey at a place called Bob Baxter’s Guitar Workshop. I remember being backstage with John and he was changing his strings. He got the new ones on, hit a chord and immediately cut all the strings off! Did this three times till he was satisfied…Then he started playing some stuff and it was just incredible to hear him up close like that. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to do those shows with him. He actually taught me how to play “Sunflower River Blues” that first night, which I perform to this day.

————

The Fahey material finally saw the light of day as “The Last Takoma Sessions” on Drag City in 2006. Discuss please the creative process in working and collaborating with John Fahey?

There was actually some tape of the two of us playing one of my tunes which is probably erased forever…they use to re-record over the 2″ tape ’cause it was so expensive. It was actually a lot of fun being in the studio with John. He was recording some of his ideas as well and he and the engineer Doug Decker showed me about splicing different takes together to get a more perfect whole. I had no idea people did that…what a shock!

The studio was in a pretty bad part of town so we had to look over our shoulders as we were leaving the sessions. And walk real fast!

————

As your music has been reissued recently, it must be a wonderful feeling for you, personally to be re-discovering these special songs. They have this remarkable timeless feel. It’s hard to believe they are from the mid-70’s! What are your feelings on the music industry today, and how it has changed since the mid-70s when your career as a recording musician began?

I not only got to re-discover them I got to re-learn them…had quite a time with a few of them! It really is a great feeling to know that folks are listening to and enjoying those tunes…I owe a huge thanks to my cousin Tiffany Anders for making me dig those recordings out and to Drag City and Tompkins Square for releasing them.

Studio time was outrageously expensive back then so there were  fewer self-produced records …some really good ones though as we’re discovering today. The digital recording programs blew it all wide open. You can put out a record for next to nothing nowadays. I have  a little Sony digital IC Recorder that cost me $40 and records fantastic…I’m thinking of doing a whole album on it.

Guess the only thing that hasn’t changed about the music business is you still don’t get paid!!!….just joking….I think.

————

What are your current inspirations? What artists and records have made the biggest impact on you in recent years?

I like a lot of the new younger players. Daniel Bachman is tearing it up…a really  excellent musician. We did a short tour together that was great fun. I believe he must play around 600 dates a year!

We did a show with Nathan Bowles, who’s an amazing clawhammer banjo player. I listen to his new CD “A Bottle, A Buckeye” all the time. Solo banjo….He also has a band called Black Twig Pickers that does some very cool stuff.

I listen to LastFM when I can…always hearing lots of unfamiliar artists there. Sideways Through Sound plays a lot of interesting stuff too. No shortage of good music if you’re willing to look for it and I look everywhere and every chance I get.

————

What was it like growing up in Kentucky in the 70’s? Can you pinpoint the time when you realized that music and the guitar was the path you were destined to walk down? 

Kentucky was  a great place to grow up. I  lived there until I joined the Air Force in 1971. Then they sent me to Grand Forks, North Dakota for the next four years. I  played a ton of music when I was stationed there. I was in a country band and a  rock band and I also did a lot  of solo gigs. They were pretty starved for entertainment up there so we made out alright! That’s also where I discovered Fahey and all the Takoma artists and began messing around with solo guitar.

My aunt Rachel played guitar and sang and I was always picking her guitar and trying to figure it out…she finally gave me a guitar when I was 12 years old and I was on my way. Then the Beatles showed up and that’s when I was absolutely certain I’d be a musician.

————

On moving to Los Angeles in the seventies, how did you find the city? Was it difficult to adapt to life there after living in Kentucky your whole life up to then? What was the music industry in L.A. like at that time?

I loved living in California…I love the west! I ended up living there for 33 years. I’m a big fan of the desert and I spent all the time I could out there.

I met some great people out there who are still my best friends and played with some amazing musicians. After Takoma I started up some bands that were a real joy to be a part of. I was in a duo  called Crazy Hearts with Karen Tobin. We were featured on the compilation LP “A Town South Of Bakersfield” along with Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam, Jim Lauderdale and a host of other killer acts. She went on to get a deal on Atlantic Records.

Later I started a country rock outfit with Edward Tree, Taras Prodaniuk and Billy Block called The Bum Steers. We were way ahead of our time and way too cool for Nashville. Porter Wagoner invited us to play the Grand Ol Opry…which ain’t a shabby gig! We were on Opry radio more times than I can count and did a lot of TV and shows in Nashville but never quite made that giant leap into the national consciousness! Had a hell of a good time trying though. We still play once in a while and we put out a new record a couple years ago.

So California ended up being my home for the largest and best part of my life.  Thank you John Fahey.

————

In 2001 you collaborated with singer/songwriter Lisa O’ Kane. Tell me about this particular project and what releases were born from this? I must seek out these recordings ASAP!

My buddy Edward Tree was producing her album “Am I Too Blue?”and she was doing one of our tunes (“Little Black Cloud”),  I did some harmonies on the record  and the we started writing together and came up with a bunch of tunes which ended up on her next CD, “Peace Of Mind”. Did quite a bit of touring in Europe and the UK and really burned it up for a while. She did another CD, “It Don’t Hurt” and then we went our separate ways, proving that you probably shouldn’t get romantically involved with your writing partner…

————

It is a fitting testament to your music that today, some years later, there is such an endearing response and acclaim for your music. You must feel very proud. 

I’m very proud indeed! I have about 3 albums worth of new material to put out and I’m hoping it will get the same response.

————

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

http://www.markfosson.com

http://www.tompkinssquare.com/mark-fosson.html

————

Younger Than Yesterday: Digging In The Dust

leave a comment »

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

markfosson_craigcarry

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. 

http://www.markfosson.com

http://www.tompkinssquare.com/mark-fosson.html

http://www.dragcity.com/products/the-lost-takoma-sessions

Written by admin

March 10, 2013 at 11:46 am