This here release is a cassette-only compilation of various genre-spanning musicians paying homage to America’s favorite forebears of folk music. All of the tracks (except “The Poor Orphan Child”) were recorded live by Markly Morrison, of the Washington-based outfit LAKE, on shitty consumer-grade tape recorders. Most of this stuff comes out of the Pacific Northwest, and the intimate, honest 90 minutes Morrison caught on tape are nothing short of mesmerizing. LAKE’s own “Lonesome Valley” is absolutely chilling; the group recorded it in a walking-ballad fashion. Another highlight is Ray Raposa (of Castanets) and Morrison doing a very quiet “Answer to the Weeping Willow”. But of course it’s not all whimsical folk; check out The Family Stoned for a raucous take on “Wouldn’t Mind Dying”, or Lazer Zeppelin for a delayed-and-fuzzed-out electric organ take on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. “The Dying Mother” is a spacey sacred steel instrumental, and Dennis Driscoll’s opening a cappella version of “Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow” comes complete with cars flying by on the highway. This track possibly best captures the sporadic and lo-fi nature of these recordings; the track itself, because of a tape malfunction, is sped up to where Dennis sounds more like Denise. The arguable father of cassette culture, R. Stevie Moore, also appears here doing “Little Darlin’ Pal of Mine”. It may seem obvious, but Markly’s insistence on capturing these tunes in their starkest and evolving forms is a truly appropriate homage to the Carter Family, and especially A.P’s efforts to document the songs of common people and mold their varied voices into a solidified musical heritage.
This here’s a scraggly collection of James Jackson Toth recordings pre-Wooden Wand/WW & The Vanishing Voice, mostly recorded at home and in a decrepit university basement at Purchase College called “The Cave” and originally released cerca 1996. Conveying the sound of this stuff requires quoting Toth at length:
“In the interest of full disclosure, I funded the record by ripping off my dad. My father had set me up with a meal plan at school, and it got around via art school junkie lore that if you requested a refund within the first two weeks of a semester, the school would give you a check for the difference. I remember receiving and cashing a check for over a thousand dollars, and using the money to press the LP. I didn’t eat a proper lunch for an entire semester, so I hope no one will take me to ask when I say I almost literally starved to make this record.”
That kind of juvenilia is what’s at play hear; a young free-jazz, noise and Jandek-obsessed record geek spewing premature creativity into a 4-track tape recorded. While some of it’s not “enjoyable”, none of it’s “bad.” For those familiar with Toth’s later work, this collection will serve as a primordial collage of what would grow into one of the strongest songwriting voices in the new weird whatever. For others, it will be just plain strange. Either way, it’s fun to listen to.