Joe Goldmark

The Wham of That Steel Man!


Joe Goldmark is the keeper of the instrumental pedal steel guitar flame. On his last album, 2007’s “Seducing the ’60s,” he branched out by including guest vocalists on half the songs. Now, for his ninth solo album (he also was a member of Jim Campilongo and the 10 Gallon Cats as well as the Twangbangers), he branches out further with a double album — a vocal disc and an instrumental disc.

The vocal disc features Keta Bill. “I’ve known Keta for about 20 years,” Goldmark told Good New Music by e-mail. “She’s (music critic) Joel Selvin’s ex-wife. She was in (’80s R&B big band) the Zasu Pitts Memorial Orchestra and (ZPMO’s later incarnation) Big Bang Beat. … I wanted a rock-and-roll singer rather than a jazz or country singer for this album. (Guitarist) Gary Potterton and I supply the country sounds.”

As on prior outings, Goldmark displays his penchant for covering classic rock numbers. On the vocal disc, he covers Creedence Clearwater Revival, Buffalo Springfield, Bobby Fuller, the Beach Boys, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Blind Faith, among others. He also throws in tracks of more recent vintage by Jeff Buckley, Teenage Fanclub and Dr. Dog.

The lion’s share of the instrumental disc, by comparison, is made up of Goldmark originals. The rest is covers of the Beatles, Dmitri Tiomkin, Burt Bacharach, and Dave and Ansel Collins.

Goldmark’s résumé explains his impressive musical taste — he’s an avid record collector with a website containing an LP label guide, LP price guides and an album cover gallery. He’s also a partner in San Francisco record shop Amoeba Music.

For a change of pace, he plays lap steel on “Long As I Can See the Light” and Dobro on “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Supporting musicians add fiddle to “Caroline No,” “Glass Beach” and “Tsunami,” and horns to “Long As I Can See the Light,” “Guns of Navarone” and Goldmark originals  “The Ska’s the Limit” and “Zanzibar.”

Best song on the album: “Sexy Sadie,” featuring John McFee (Clover, the Doobie Brothers) on slide guitar.


1. Long As I Can See The Light
2. On The Way Home
3. Let Her Dance
4. Caroline No
5. I Don’t Want Control Of You
6. Beware Of Darkness
7. Most Likely You Go Your Way
8. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over
9. We’ll Meet Again
10. Ain’t It Strange
11. Can’t Find My Way Home

1. The High Road
2. Palomino
3. The Ska’s The Limit
4. Riptide Rock
5. Sexy Sadie
6. Zanzibar
7. Glass Beach
8. Guns Of Navarone
9. Any Day Now
10. Dede’s Delight
11. Pasta Puttanesca
12. Double Barrel
13. Tsunami

Total time: 1:14:11

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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Ancient Future

World Without Walls


San Francisco Bay Area-based Ancient Future was all about “world fusion” before world music was even a genre. To honor the band’s reunion this summer after a 15-year performance hiatus, Capitol/EMI is giving their fifth and most accessible disc its first digital release.

Violinist Jim Hurley came on board for this long-out-of-print 1990 outing, joining the core group of guitarist Matthew Montfort, keyboardist Doug McKeehan and percussionist Ian Dogole and remaining as a member for the rest of the group’s seven studio albums. Tabla player extraordinaire Zakir Hussain was recruited for three songs, and the record also is an early engineering/production credit for alternative pedal steeler Bruce Kaphan (who, alas, only plays shaker here).

Several exotic instruments spice up this instrumental stew, including electric violin and synthesized thumb piano (“Dance of the Rain Forest”), steel drums (“April Air”), and Balinese gamelan and Chinese flute (“Nyo Nyo Gde”).

Other highlights are “Lakshmi Rocks Me,” a tribute to south Indian violinist L. Shankar; “End of the Beginning,” a mashup of ancient Celtic and Indian influences; “Turkish Taffy,” boasting a triple-lead attack comprising guitar, piano and acoustic violin; “Indra’s Net,” inspired by Hindu mythology and featured in the soundtrack for the drift-net fishing documentary “Closing the Curtains of Death”; and “Gopi Song,” a tip of the hat to Pandit Ram, master of a north Indian bowed string instrument called the sarangi.

1. Lakshmi Rocks Me
2. Dance Of The Rain Forest
3. April Air
4. 14 Steps
5. End Of The Beginning
6. Turkish Taffy
7. Alap
8. Indra’s Net
9. Nyo Nyo Gde
10. Gopi Song

Total time: 44:02

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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James Elkington & Nathan Salsburg


Tompkins Square

With the exception of a fiddle here and some bass there, two acoustic guitars are all one gets with this gem of an album (vinyl and download only) — but that’s plenty.

It’s a meeting of the intercontinental minds: Elkington, a British transplant living in Chicago the past 10 years, and Salsburg, who returned to his hometown of Louisville a few years back after a stint in New York.

Elkington was leader of The Zincs before starting The Horse’s Ha with Freakwater’s Janet Bean, and maintains a solo career. Salsburg is an archivist and producer for the Alan Lomax Archive; curator of the Twos & Fews vernacular-music imprint on Drag City Records; and host of the “Root Hog or Die” program on East Village Radio.

Combining British and rural American guitar traditions, “Avos” (a Russian word for the confident approach to new situations, and the faith that nothing tragic will occur once in them) draws comparisons not only to “American primitive”-style performers such as John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Peter Lang, Robbie Basho and Jack Rose, but also to British folk guitarists such as John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and Davey Graham.

Fortunately, Elkington and Salsburg’s simpatico relationship doesn’t result in a tribute to their common heroes; rather, it combines bits and pieces of their influences into a wildly fresh instrumental concoction that must be heard to be believed.

For the obsessives: Elkington uses a Martin 000-1 and a Rodriguez classical guitar, while Salsburg plays a Guild D4 and a Bourgeois JOM-V.

1. Hospitality
2. A Free Amft
3. Sedentary Song
4. Fez And Guinness
5. Romany Belle
6. Marjoram
7. Avos
8. Believer Field
9. The Blurring Cogs
10. Trois Poires
11. Straight Up And Down
12. The Queue Outside The Night Ministry
13. Scarborough Fore And Aft

Total time: 35:23

External links
Nathan Salsburg’s blog
Tompkins Square’s ‘Avos’ page
iTunes Store

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Ben Hall

Ben Hall!

Tompkins Square

hall-bNashville-via-Mississippi thumbpicker Hall was brought to the Tompkins Square label by the late Charlie Louvin, who stumbled across him thanks to a casual stop by Hall at the Louvin Brothers Museum in Monteagle, Tenn.

Already established as a serious player and with several awards in hand, Hall hadn’t really considered a professional career. After backing up Louvin on several Tompkins Square releases, the label set him up to record his debut at Cowboy Technical Services, the workshop-style NYC studio co-owned by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (former guitarist with Joan Jett, the Del Lords, the Yayhoos and Steve Earle).

Ambel told Good New Music by e-mail that he had no previous connection with Hall or with Tompkins Square founder Josh Rosenthal, saying simply, “I have built a reputation on making straightforward ‘performance-based’ records.”

Rosenthal, also reached by e-mail, corroborated, saying that Ambel had “great gear, a great track record, and I wanted to record in New York because Ben is so busy as a student in Nashville that it’s hard to pin him down.”

Hall, 22, is studying music at Belmont University. Besides playing on Louvin’s “Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs,” “Hickory Wind: Live at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, Waycross, GA” and “The Battle Rages On,” he also supported Kurt Wagner (Lambchop) and Cortney Tidwell on their collaboration under the name Kort, “Invariable Heartache.”

“Ben Hall!” is an easygoing, mostly instrumental collection (he sings tenor on two Merle Travis numbers, “Guitar Rag” and “Sweet Temptation”) that pays tribute to Travis and Chet Atkins, accompanied only by drums and bass. But more than just emulating classic albums by his heroes, he picks a few unusual songs to cover that fit right in after being given the Hall treatment, such as Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” and the Louvin Brothers’ “Every Time You Leave.”gnm_end_bug

1. Cannonball Rag
2. Guitar Rag
3. Alabama Jubilee
4. Mimi & Me
5. Windy & Warm
6. Lover, Come Back To Me
7. There’ll Be Some Changes Made
8. Sweet Temptation
9. Oklahoma Hills
10. King Of The Road
11. Every Time You Leave

Total time: 30:32

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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Michael Chapman

Trainsong: Guitar Compositions 1967-2010

Tompkins Square

chapmanIn an online work-in-progress documentary about him, British folk “outsider” Chapman lists his early influences as Big Bill Broonzy, Django Reinhardt and jazz organist Jimmy Smith, the latter because “he’s like a self-contained bass player, and I try to do that on the guitar.”

By way of explanation, Chapman says he used to listen to records without realizing there were two guitarists playing, and would “try and play both bits at once.” The singer-songwriter also maintains that because he was completely self-taught, “every technique I use on the guitar is wrong, but it works for me.”

“Trainsong” is a chance to witness those beautifully wrong techniques in their purest state: This all-instrumental double album — made up of recently recorded solo guitar versions of original compositions and a few covers — is devoid of overdubs, guitar choirs and the tapping rhythm foot.

Recorded at Phoenix Studios in Brampton, Cumbria, all but a few tracks were previously released in 2006 on his Rural Retreat label as “Words Fail Me, Vols. 1 & 2.” Josh Rosenthal, who won a Grammy for his work on the Robert Johnson box set while at Columbia Records, performs a public service by reissuing this ear candy on his historic-/contemporary-folk label Tompkins Square.

It fits well with other releases on the label by so-called American Primitive guitarists such as William Tyler, Sean Smith and James Blackshaw. But the retrospective nature of “Trainsong” combines with Chapman’s “whole is greater than the sum of its genres” style, creating a subtly changing musical panorama that’s unbeatable.

Highlights include “Fahey’s Flag,” where at one point the resonator guitar slows down — so expertly it’s as if a turntable gradually decelerated from 78 rpm to 33⅓ — and then later abruptly speeds back up; the sublimely beautiful “Caddo Lake,” inspired by a stop during a Texas road trip; “Wellington the Skellington,” an attempt at writing music for his dogs to dance to and named after his big skinny hound; the Strat piece “Sensimilia,” safely referred to (or should that be “reefered to”?) in the liner notes as “a gardening term”; and “Extrabop,” played on a National and one of the album’s best examples of Chapman’s “two-guitar” sound.gnm_end_bug


1. The Last Polish Breakfast
2. Little Molly’s Dream
3. Fahey’s Flag
4. Rockport Sunday
5. Sunday Morning
6. Sweet Little Friend From Georgia
7. Elinkine
8. New Chord Blues
9. Uncle Jack/Looking For Charlie (In Nogales)
10. Caddo Lake
11. Theme From The Movie Of The Same Name
12. Stranger’s Map Of Texas
13. Slowcoach

1. Naked Ladies And Electric Ragtime
2. Ponchatoulah
3. Wellington The Skellington
4. Silverking
5. Sensimillia
6. Thurston’s House
7. Thank You PK 1944
8. The Coming Of The Roads
9. Sometimes
10. Extrabop
11. Trying Times
12. Hi-Heeled Sneekers
13. La Madragada

Total time: 1:50:55

External links
artist’s website

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