Duck Baker's "Les Blues Du Richmond: Demos and Outtakes 1973-1979"

In his 2017 liner notes for this new release, finger style guitarist/musicologist Duck Baker writes "It may seem obvious that folkies would not want to hear some kid trying to sound like Eric Dolphy with a nylon-strung guitar, but back in the 1960s and early '70s this was not quite so clear-cut. Sandy Bull had recorded with Ornette's drummer Billy Higgins, after all, and people did talk about blending genres quite a bit (they still do talk about it, anyway).

Side one of this set is sourced from an eclectic 1973 demo tape that Baker recorded, one track after another at Alpha Audio, in Richmond, VA. that he shopped to the "big" labels (Vanguard, Arhoolie and Blue Thumb), all of which turned him down and not because he lacked the talent. Baker ended up on Stefan Grossman's Kicking Mule Records label, which folded in the late '80s.

Side one is sourced from the 1973 demo, digitized (deal with it) by Marty Gary the original producer. Side B is culled from late '70s sessions after Baker had moved to the U.K. where he still resides. The two sides add up to an eclectic set that's sometimes "jazzy" but ends more "folky". Baker combines crystalline clarity and precision with speed (where appropriate).

You'll recognize "Fire Down There" as the catchy track Sonny Rollins called "St. Thomas" on Saxophone Collossus but which had been recorded earlier by Randy Weston as "Fire Down There".

The material on both sides ranges from familiar tunes like "Maple Leaf Rag" and "Charleston Mad-Charleston" to more unusual fare like Abdullah Ibrahim's (A/K/A Dollar Brand) "Little Boy". The set ends with more traditional material Jansch and Renbourn fans will appreciate. The closer "Pretty Girl Milking A Cow" alone is worth the price of admission in my opinion though nothing is less than enchanting.

So fans of Fahey, Kottke, Jansch, Renbourn, Grossman unfamiliar with Baker (that's me), here's one to add to your collection. The sound is quite fine too: directly recorded, transparent and not bathed in transient blurring reverb or any sort of studio trickery. It's available directly from the Tompkins Square website.

Jenn's picture

Duck is a friend. He's big talent, curious investigator, and swell person. I'll make sure that he sees this.