Though not as well-known as Fahey or Kottke, Peter Lang sounds right at home among them on the 1974 compilation released by Takoma records where I first heard his playing. This track comes off his debut The Thing At The Nursery Room Window, which was put out by Takoma a year earlier. Like Kottke, Lang also hails from my home state of Minnesota and to my knowledge still lives there. As the presenter in this segment from Minnesota Public Television in 1977 lays out, the guitarists who are often grouped together under the label of American Primitive were trying to elevate the fingerstyle playing found in American folk, blues, and country music to the level of respect usually afforded to classical instruments. Even if they didn’t necessarily succeed, they definitely produced some great records in the process.
Lang released four records in the 1970s before taking a break to pursue a career in animation. He did return to music in the early 2000s, releasing a couple albums of his own and appearing on a John Fahey tribute compilation. You can see him perform Young Man live in 2007 here. I’m not sure if its the same performance, but a live album from around the same time is available on Spotify along with some of his more recent releases. When I go to record stores I usually keep an eye out for Takoma recordings, as they’re not always available electronically and even if its all in your head I think this kind of music really does sound better on vinyl.
My Red Dog appears on Lukas Read’s debut self-released record Ramble Man, Ramble, which he put out in late 2013. After releasing one more EP on his own, Read just put out another record Neo Age with the German label Dying for Bad Music. Though his latest release is all instrumental fingerstyle guitar and experimentation with effects, his first record is a nice blend of instrumental guitar and original singer-songwriter material. You can check out a video for the title track of Neo Age here. I knew that I was going to like this album as soon as I saw there was a tribute medley to John Fahey’s Poor Boys Long Way From Home, which is one of my favorite Fahey tunes. You can find his EP over at Bandcamp and purchase a limited edition CD from Dying for Bad Music here.
Minnesota native Mark Lang began playing music with his brother Peter in the late 1960s, and both began pursuing a life in music once the family moved to California. While Peter was able to record a number of albums, initially with John Fahey’s Takoma Records, Mark’s lone commercial release was Texas John Boscoe released by Symposium Records (early home of Leo Kottke) in 1976. This track appears on one of the comps in Numero Group’s Wayfaring Strangers series, Guitar Soli, which features a whole host of forgotten and unsung guitarists who released instrumental material in the American primitive vein of John Fahey and Leo Kottke. Mark Lang’s fingerpicking and slide guitar work is on display with Strawberry Man, but he played maracas, banjo, and mandolin on that record as well. Texas John Boscoe was well-received within its somewhat niche market, and Mark Lang signed a deal with Capitol records at the start of the 1980s. Unfortunately nothing came of the deal, but he sure left a gem of a record behind.
Rest Stop Birds comes off what appears to be the debut cassette for Opossum Sun Trail, American Chemtrails which they appear to be self-releasing through Bandcamp. This is the type of thing that makes me bemoan my new car’s lack of a cassette deck. The group’s only other online presence as far as I can tell is a video for The Long Valley, a track off American Chemtrails. There wasn’t a ton of information online about these guys, but I did find a Facebook event for a show that that they played with Daniel Bachman. I’ll definitely keep my eyes peeled for another repeat of that lineup because that would be one helluva time. This whole release exudes the sparse desert vibes that I really love in artists like William Fowler Collins, though in this case Opossum Sun Trail is channeling a bit of Ennio Morricone. And that’s just fine by me.
I found this track on a great post over on Dusted Magazine’s blog where American Primitive guitarist Glenn Jones laid out some of his favorite guitar pieces that don’t fit into the American Primitive mold. Despite being well respected by guitarists both of his day and since, little is known about Snoozer Quinn and very little of his playing was ever recorded. He was born Eddie Quinn in Pike County, Mississippi in 1907 and spent his young adult life touring Texas and the South as a guitarist in a number of travelling bands. He joined the popular dance band the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in 1928 and recorded with other well-known artists like Bix Beiderbecke and Jimmie Davis throughout his career, though some of those recordings have been lost. In case the sounds of Love Come Back to Me/On the Alamo weren’t mournful enough for you, this recording was made in a New Orleans charity hospital where he eventually died of tuberculosis. They are some of the only recordings that capture his playing by itself.
He was credited as a songwriter on the excellent Jimmie Davis song There’s Evil in Ye Children and perfomed on a number of other Davis recordings which survive today like Market Blues and Midnight Blues. I’d encourage you to look at Quinn’s Discogs to see where he performed, since only one compilation is dedicated to Quinn by himself. I suppose Quinn’s story serves as a reminder that if you are good at something, keep doing it because you might be forgotten and die of tuberculosis in New Orleans only to be written about on music blogs long after it can make any difference.
Put out last year by eilean rec., who also put out Wil Bolton’s latest, Lake Mary’s And the Birds Sing in Chorus First is a treat from start to finish. While his earlier releases blend his guitar work with sustained drones, this release reflects a more stripped-down approach, which could have something to do with the fact that each track was recorded in a different place as the artist traversed the US. Lake Mary is the performing name for Chaz Prymek, who has been releasing music under the Lake Mary moniker since about 2010. The location may have been different, but Prymek’s masterfully contemplative playing remains solid throughout. I’ve been listening to his earlier releases, like There are Always Second Chances in the Mountains and Canopy/Mardotsha which add drone-y experimentation to the mix and they are also excellent. There’s also a live set on his Bandcamp where he performs with the Ranch Family Band, and it’s pretty neat to hear how those sounds are constructed in a live setting. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody who reads this regularly that this ticks a lot of boxes for me, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
Alex Archibald is an American Primative-style guitarist, but he hails from Vancouver, Canada though I suppose we shouldn’t hold that against him based on how he plays. Dry Leaf Into The Sea comes from his most recent release, Early Suburban Terrorism, which came out on Halloween of 2015. He has two more releases up on Bandcamp, Accidental Waltzes and Western Life May Suit You Less. I had a hard time picking a track, but I think choosing the best album title of those three is equally challenging. As far as I can tell these are only available digitally, though you can get more information about Archibald’s work on Facebook.