posted November 2nd, 2018

Today, November 2nd, 2018, we can say with assurance that the world is a better place than it was 40 years ago. We say this knowing all that hangs in the balance, with the difficult path ahead and the unaccountable behavior of so many of our brethren. The reason we say this is because of music. Today, we are thinking of the music of Mark Fosson, whose brilliant guitar playing was recorded in the late 1970s, but not released until decades later. When these recordings were heard again, they were released in short order and to much acclaim, making fans of music happy and players of music hungry to play with as much skill and zest. They made the world a better place. Sadly, this improved world will have to go on with the presence of Mark himself - he passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer.

Mark was a native Kentuckian, and his playing on six- and twelve-string guitars and banjo communicated a deep and soulful connection with the traditional music of the region. From an early age, he was involved with music, writing songs as a teenager and bringing his playing to a virtuoso level. His playing came to the attention of none other than legendary picker John Fahey, who set about recording Mark with intent to release an album on his Takoma Records imprint, home to many of Fahey's classic albums as well as recordings by Robbie Basho and Leo Kottke. Unfortunately, the sudden collapse of the label's finances negated the arrangement, and the tapes ended up in Mark's possession, where they'd be found in his garage many years later by his niece, Tiffany Anders. In the meantime, Mark continued making music throughout the 80s and 90s, with country outfit The Bum Steers and in a few soundtrack appearances, eventually finding some success writing with the singer Lisa O'Kane. Music in this vein was released on his album Jesus On a Greyhound in 2006. That same year, we released the Fahey recordings as The Lost Takoma Sessions. The years had only increased the profound impact of Mark's playing, and he was soon seen as a vital member of the late 20th century's American Primitive movement. In 2012, the demos that attracted Fahey's attention were issued on Tompkins Square label, entitled Digging In the Dust. Mark was still a voluble player, and in 2015, though Bandcamp, he released of a set of memory pieces concerning his childhood entitled Ky. Inspired by the positive reaction to this collection, he continued to compose, and in 2017, we released his Solo Guitar album.  

All our dealings with Mark were sweet - his communications with the label were grateful and generous, and we were delighted to spend time with him in August of 2017 when he came to Chicago to play at the Million Tongues Festival. Mark had already been ill, but he carried himself cheerfully, laughing easily and playing like an absolute master. We've lost a wonderful man, and our condolences go to all those others who will miss him as well. The music he made won't be missed, however - it remains with us, carved into time and the internet, and will continue to shine light on this world. Go ahead on, Mark - we won't soon forget you.

Artists in this story: Mark Fosson