Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: anywhere from about 3 to 4.5 out of 5
There was that time in the early to mid 60's when legitimate folk guitarists starting dropping acid and trying to play their 12-acoustics like sitars. I'm pretty sure that that's how we got the Incredible String Band, at least by the time of their second album. Back on the other side of the pond there were some minimalist guitar master wielding sheets of Appalachia and eastern tradition together. They beat the beat bands and American rockers to the psychedelic punch, even if the sounds weren't quite as widescreen technicolour as the rock scene would later produce. I've heard names like Robbie Bassho and John Fahey bouncing around for years, but I'd never felt smart enough to get around to them. These recording are scratchy as hell, but it just helps to create the weird world beyond the rural veil of the American countryside.
Most of the tunes on this compilation are 6 or 12-string, acoustic explorations. Everything here is pretty solid, although my attention keeps shifting to the two Max Ochs "Raga" tracks, which fulfills its title nicely while still sounding like it's coming off of a back porch in Arkansas, and "The Thousand Incarnations of the Rose" by Robbie Basho, which is the sound of a guitar being programmed and processed by an ancient, analog computer in the celestial temple. The precise and mathematical picking patterns on "The John Fahey Sampler" are notable as well. Meanwhile, Bukka White shows up with a drummer and an electric guitar to show the youngin's how raw, gut bucket blues is done, and there's occasionally a touch cropping up on the ultra-obscure Henry Taussig tracks to change up the game a bit.
This isn't the easiest music to delve into, in part because of its eclecticism and in part because it's so difficult to track down the recordings (just try going on a Robbie Basho search). Fortunately, this is a good place to start and is a nice reflection of the mid 60's attempts to capture the transcendental in the folk underground.