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Peter Walker - Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms (2013)


Peter Walker, the American acoustic guitar pioneer, re-emerged as a recording artist in 2006 with four tracks on A Raga for Peter Walker, an all-star tribute recording on Tompkins Square and a collection of unreleased '70s tapes. Since that time, there have been four new albums of Spanish and steel-string guitar recordings, and the re-release of Rainy Day Raga, his 1966 Vanguard debut. Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms? is a previously unreleased album, cut at New York's Mercury Studios. The reasons its tapes have remained in Walker's "vault" (a converted bread truck) are unclear -- but it hardly matters. Where his previous studio albums featured other musicians as accompaniment, this date is completely solo, just voice and steel-string guitar, one take, no overdubs. It is his song cycle for the end of the 1960s, composed and recorded during the heat of an era intent on ending the Vietnam War, and culturally reshaping everything that came after. But these are not "protest" songs; they are snapshots of a man's life in the process of living. His mature playing style, which weaves his formal studies of the Indian carnatic tradition, American folk styles, and Spanish and Andalusian folk and flamenco lineage seamlessly, is fully present. Even in his vocals, Walker uses the raga form, offering his lyrics as a seldom deviating drone. And his lyrics, which revolve around various poetic and storytelling forms, are as compelling as his melodies and harmonic investigations. "Me and My Lady" is a love song that slips through Spanish, Celtic, and Appalachian folk as well as modal concerns; it illustrates longing and delight. "Johnny Cuckoo," an instrumental, is more urgent, offering a dazzling display of fingerpicked and rhythmically complex strumming. "Early in the Morning," another love song, uses the raga form as it encircles flamenco, binding the two traditions. His reading of the public domain "Pretty Bird" is haunted by the folk-blues even in its dramatic modal presentation. The song "Fifty Miles" is a labyrinthine recounting of Walker's initial journey to Puerto Vallarta in 1964. "Wonder," the closer and longest cut, is a driven, kaleidoscopic number; its illustrious implementation of raga, adapted flamenco, and a collision of Andalusian folk forms is staggering. The song's narrative is equally engaging. In addition to the music, there is a self-penned 4,300-word essay by Walker, distilled by Delmore Recordings' Mark Linn from a 40-page essay (that we'd love to read in its entirety) as it details his travels and experiences that, at least tangentially, connect to the spirit of the music. Even the cover photo -- of Walker with radical attorney William Kunstler at Detroit's famed Garwood Mansion commune -- is a testament to the era. Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms? adds immeasurably to his musical and cultural legacy, and is a must for any fan of American guitar music. ---- Thom Jurek


Peter Walker is an American original, as eclectic and enigmatic as the songs he writes. The legendary seventy-five year old raga/psychedelic/folk acoustic guitarist, who was schooled by masters such as Ravi Shankar, and Ali Akbar Khan, has been described by Larry Coryell as, “One of the most original practitioners of contemporary music” and proclaimed by the Beatles’ press agent Derek Taylor as “Perhaps the greatest guitarist in the world.” His music, celebrated by the late Jack Rose, James Blackshaw, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Thurston Moore, and Greg Davis, all contributed original compositions to the 2006 tribute album, A Raga For Peter Walker. In the mid-‘60s, while musical director to Timothy Leary’s LSD explorations, Walker released the classic Rainy Day Raga LP in 1966, and 1968’s influential Second Poem to Karmela or Gypsies Are Important, both on Vanguard Records. Following that, he disappeared from recording for almost forty years, but never stopped practicing, learning, reaching. Now, Delmore Recording Society is proud to announce the November 26th release of a lost studio session from 1970, Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms?

Recorded at Mercury Studios in NYC, Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms? is Walker’s manifesto. A solo guitar/vocal album, all one take, no overdubs, that could have been Peter’s classic third album had it been released at the time (Peter had been storing the reels in a converted bread truck for decades). While his previous two records are incredible collaborative efforts – the playing of Bruce Langhorne, Jeremy Steig, and John Blair as important to the final product as Peter’s – this album is pure Walker. A requiem to the 1960s, chronicling lovers on the run, anti-war movement adventures, and living off the grid in Mexico, California, Detroit, and NYC. (source)

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