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Fate Is Only Twice [Digipak]
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  • Editor: Josh Rosenthal.
  • Photographer: John Upton.
  • When Tompkins Square Records reissued Harry Taussig's 1965 album Fate Is Only Once back in 2006, it was, for fans of American Primitive guitar music, a genuine event. The album was Taussig's lone recorded offering outside of two cuts that appeared on a compilation which also included John Fahey (whose Takoma label released it), Max Ochs, and Robbie Basho. In other words, Taussig was among the most obscure talents the genre ever produced. He authored some authoritative guitar books and became a film historian as well, but he never recorded again. Until 2012, that is. After 47 years, Taussig's sophomore recording, Fate Is Only Twice, was issued by Tompkins Square. While his debut featured a few originals alongside blues and folk standards, this ten-tune set includes all originals. After all this time, Taussig's imagination remains rich and fertile, and his ambition to express it on his guitar is abundant. His darkly impressionistic playing style is full of nuance, expansive harmonic articulation, and a signature sense of lyric invention. "Rondo in D - On Southern Themes" moves through insinuations of bluegrass and various fingerstyle techniques from Piedmont and Delta blues to parlor guitar and rags, all shaded in an attractive, compelling dissonance. "Der Dritte Man Fantasia," based on the iconic "Third Man Theme," begins with rumbling bass notes and shimmering chords before the theme begins to assert itself in fragments, incrementally until it appears in full. But by then, it is already fully inside Taussig's composition. He moves it to the left, opening it up to a wide panoply of colors, timbres, and textures. "Living in the City," played on a 12-string, uses a complex series of overtones as it moves through rags and country blues. Certainly, after 47 years, Taussig isn't quite as fast or elastic, but it doesn't matter: he more than compensates because he's far more musical in his approach. His compositions and his improvisations show a nearly limitless imagination that pushes at the boundaries of traditional forms without breaking them (not as easy as it seems). Fate Is Only Twice was a long time coming, but was certainly worth the wait. Hopefully, Taussig's association with Tompkins Square will result in more recordings in the future. ~ Thom Jurek
Professional Reviews
Mojo (Publisher) (p.96) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "With molten, beautiful folk simplicity these 10 instrumentals have much to offer fans of Basho, Fahey et al."
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