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Published: 2009/03/30
by Jesse Jarnow

Long Last Tapes 1970 – Peter Walker

The goofy folkie sitting shoeless and cross-legged on the cover of Peter Walker's Long Lost Tapes 1970 only partially suggests the music within. In front of an all-white backdrop, floor melting into wall with no visible horizon line, he holds a guitar and smiles beatifically, almost ridiculously, at some point off-camera. He sort of looks like Eugene Levy’s Mitch, from A Mighty Wind, and one wonders, too, why this was the last music Walker recorded for nearly 40 years.

In the cauldron of New York music, Walker had fused Indian scales and acoustic guitar, finding a musical voice that may've been a little too pitch perfect for its times on albums of cosmic picking, like 1966's Rainy Day Raga. By the time of this 1970 session at Levon Helm’s house, Walker’s guitar playing sounds as if might shatter completely. On "Camel Ride," he plays in cascading arrhythmic bursts against drummer Maruga Booker’s distant desert beat. On "Missing You," he navigates between the song’s quick chord changes and long, solo extrapolations, occasionally derailing between the two.

And, like much ridiculous '60s music, there is occasionally perfection in that derailment, in the tabla/flute swells that come after the severely intoned vocals of "102nd Psalm," in the oversaturated bass that threatens to drown "Mellowtime" and the clarinet that snakes in to save it. Or, at least as much as a fringe recording by a fringe musician can be saved — which is to say, it can be reissued 40 years later for another generation of fringe listeners.

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