Music to accompany your beard by.
James Elkington + Nathan Salsburg — Avos (2011) Spotify
The mighty Jim Elkington finally makes a triumphant return to RC! This thing's miles away from the Zincs, however. An acoustic guitar duets record, it's appearance on the fancy Tompkins Square label slipped me by four years ago, but that's rectified and all is now right in the universe. The conversations that Elkington and Salsburg have are (perhaps surprisingly) direct. Something like 'A Free Amft' is catchy as heck, while the two part 'The Blurring Cogs' splits its duties between technicality and beauty. 'Scarborough Fore and Aft' has an elegant chord change; the type of which makes sitting through the whole record worthwhile. Darn good stuff, but that's kind of what we expect from Tompkins Square. Key tracks: 'A Free Amft', 'Romany Belle' and 'Scarborough Fore and Aft'
Alexander Turnquist — Flying Fantasy (2014) YouTube Spotify
Reminding me of a more ethereal Leo Kottke on twelve string, Alexander Turnquist builds huge walls of pure sound using his guitar as the foundation upon which vibes, marimba, Hammond B3, French horn, cello, violin and even chanting vocals construct stark beauty. There is a bit of a rainy day vibe to this album, but there's always a satisfying chord change beyond the current one. Check out the deep, meditative title track for a big moment on the record. Gorgeous, truly. I'm in need of the rest of his catalogue. Key tracks: 'House of Insomniacs' and the stunning title track
Glenn Jones — Barbecue Bob in Fishtown (2009) Spotify
Been kicking around since the late 80's and a band called Cul de Sac, Glenn Jones is a direct descendant of the John Fahey/Will Ackerman school of American Primitivism. Only difference is that Glenn plays banjo every once in a while and, just as an opinion, I would say leads with his head more than his heart a good portion of the time (at least on this album, anyway). Which is not to say that this music is too technical for its own good —the deep chords and redemptive changes of '1337 Shattuck Avenue, Apartment D' are immediately resonating, for instance— it just gets a little cerebral every so often. He has many albums; this is his third proper solo. I've got my work cut out for me. Key tracks: '1337 Shattuck Avenue, Apartment D', the title track and the banjo track 'Keep it a Hundred Years'
Glenn Jones — My Garden State (2013) Spotify
Inspired by the New Jersey house he grew up in, this is far more heartfelt than Barbecue Bob. Maybe because the subject matter was so much more closer to his heart is why this one resonates with me a little more. Maybe the tunes are just a smidgen better. Couple of duets (one with Laura Baird on banjo, one with Meg Baird on guitar), couple improvised tunes, lots of odd tunings (which are detailed in the liner notes) and it's another solid effort. Key tracks: 'Like a Sick Eagle Looking at the Sky' and very Fahey-esque 'Bergen County Farewell'
Glenn Jones — The Wanting (2011) YouTube Spotify
Probably the overall prettiest of the Glenn Jones albums I've picked up recently, it's also probably the most melancholy. The tunes just take these swooping, emotion-filled turns at every chord change. The kind of which sound so right, you'd swear you've heard them before, but they're in such odd tunings and partially capo'd all over the place (yes, partial capoing is a thing, apparently), it's a long shot that you have. On all of these albums, Glenn puts his personal contact information inside (physical address, phone number and email) and, on this album, even invites you to "get in touch." Really seems like a cool guy. Key tracks: the peaceful 'Of its Own Kind' and the epic seventeen minute closer 'The Orca Grande Cement Factory at Victorville', which is a duet with drummer Chris Corsano
Mark Fosson — The Lost Takoma Sessions (mid-1970's)
"Best demo tape I've heard since Kottke" wrote John Fahey on Mark Fosson's demo reel. "Sign him quick," he adds, which is underlined. And Mark is definitely in Kottke's sphere, as far as twelve string players go. Just check out the quick muted harmonics on the opener 'Jubilaya' for a quick litmus test. He plays themes, mostly, and doesn't stray too far away from them. The centerpiece 'Gorilla Mountain' is the exception to that rule, as Mark plays in an odd strumming pattern that seems to be blossoming these impressionistic chords up like new growth in the spring. Beautiful music. Key tracks: 'Gorilla Mountain', 'Jubilaya' and surprisingly catchy 'Sky Piece'