Don Bikoff’s magical Celestial Explosion was reissued last year by Tompkins Square, bringing its splendid, slightly spacey acoustic explorations to a much wider audience than when it originally came out in 1968. Up until this year, it was the guitarist’s only release. But Hallowed Ground shows that Bikoff’s powers are undimmed; perhaps they’ve even deepened over the years. Though the cover art may look a bit like something you’d find gathering dust in the “local” section of your neighborhood coffeehouse, don’t let it deter you. The 10 tunes here are lovely guitar soli gems that weave and wind with a loose, easygoing charm. A particular treat is Bikoff’s faithful but not overly reverent rendition of John Fahey’s classic “Sligo River Blues.”
Harry Taussig was another one-and-done Takoma School guitarist. He put out the extremely rare Fate Is Only Once in 1965, appeared on the Contemporary Guitar compilation alongside Bukka White, Robbie Basho and Fahey … and then disappeared from the music scene for several decades. But in 2012 he returned with a worthy sequel, Fate Is Only Twice, and even played his first-ever gigs last year. Now there’s no stopping Harry. He’s got a third album, The Diamond of Lost Alphabets, out digitally on Tompkins Square this month, a rough-hewn beauty, full of moaning, minor-key slide guitar lines and plaintive melodies that dig into a deep well of folk and blues forms.
Also out now on Tompkins Square (doing the Lord’s work, as per usual), is Suni McGrath’s Seven Stars. McGrath made three LPs in the 1960s, which for some reason have never been reissued, but they are favorites among guitar soli collectors (seek out The Cornflower Suite for a taste). Seven Stars was recorded a few years back but is only seeing the light of day in full this year. It’s a showcase for the guitarist’s nimble-fingered 12-string excursions. It may be his first album in four decades, but McGrath has clearly been practicing. words / t wilcox