Friday, December 12, 2008

Charlie Louvin, and A Quick Thompkins Square Primer

There is word on the street that country gospel legend Charlie Louvin (lala) will be playing here in Baton Rouge at The Red Dragon, a congenial overgrown house show situation for us congenial overgrown old folks, in early April. There is no website for The Dragon, but Chris Maxwell (email) is the dude to talk to. If it happens, this will be the Americana event of your life. This collection of murder ballads and disaster songs on Thompkins Square is rather spectacular - the songs don't come off as scrapings from the vault, nor are they over polished in the least. Thompkins Square does a really good job with this music.

I got acquainted with the rustic pleasures of Thompkins Square when I bought Harry Taussig's Fate is Only Once (lala)with leftover store credit at the local CD haunt. I bought it simply based on the cover, which looks too corny to not be legit, and Taussig's Fahey-light primitive guitar bore the fruit of this whim, which is further discussed in this piece I did on him and Alan Sparhawk for outsideleft.

My favorite record on the label, though, is the lovingly curated A Raga for Peter Walker, (lala) a compilation of songs by the forgotten fingerpicking master and younger acolytes like James Blackshaw, Jack Rose, Greg Davis, Thurston Moore and the mighty yet undersung Steffen Basho-Junhans. It is so easy to blow it with the reverence when guitarists pay tribute a guitarists' guitarist like Peter Walker - people are always on their best behavior on these kinds of records. Maybe its the presence of Walker himself and his relaxed complicated breezy stringwork that keeps everybody comfortable, or maybe all these same players have appeared on so many of these kinds of tributes that they finally did one they would want to hear. Maybe it's the daunting promise of raga in the title that cautioned the performers that the very nature of this record was pushing close to the line, and they wisely chose to chill out a little. Whatever the impetus, A Raga for Peter Walker is beyond lovely.

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