Acoustic Guitarist Peter Walker Performs First NYC Area Show in 7 Years Tonight at Union Pool
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, and Woodstock resident, 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, to celebrate today's (November 26) release of Walker's lost studio session from 1970, and his first solo guitar record with vocals, "Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms?", on Delmore Recording Society, he is proud to announce that he will be making his first NYC area live performance in seven years (and only show this year) on December 18 at Union Pool in Brooklyn.
Recorded at Mercury Studios in NYC, "Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms?" is Walker's manifesto. It 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 solely 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.
The record begins gently, with love and war songs, (and a version of the traditional "Pretty Bird," that is unlike any other), before going on the rough and urgent ride of "Fifty Miles," (on two flat tires, a story detailed in the liner notes), and culminating with "Wonder," a song where Peter summons all the elements into one long journey, bringing us back down at the end as if we were at one of Timothy Leary's "celebrations." Peter's wondrous guitar playing and intimate, otherworldly vocals create the effect of a record encoded with some deeper wisdom being channeled directly to your ears.
At the time of the session, Peter was living in the infamous Garwood Mansion near Detroit, working as incumbent opening act for their weekly, all night concerts / parties (as he had been at the Café Au Go Go throughout the '60s, and the Joyous Lake in the 70s). William Kunstler stopped by to speak about the John Sinclair trial, and the two had an immediate rapport. Kunstler was a major influence on Peter's anti-war movement involvement and leadership, and on his later decision to get a para-legal degree and represent immigrant taxi drivers in NYC in the 1970s. The two of them are pictured together on the album cover.
The beautifully crafted packaging for the CD and the limited edition vinyl version of "Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms?" features a twenty-page booklet with exclusive images as well as a 4300 word essay by Peter, which was condensed from forty pages he sent to Delmore founder, and Executive Producer of the record, Mark Linn. While it's not exactly clear how every wild adventure discussed in the essay relates to each song on the record, knowing that these adventures occurred helps us imagine their evolution. The notes reveal a man of mystery. A man who rubbed elbows with Karen Dalton, Sandy Bull, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and John Barrymore. A man who possesses endless energy, drive and passion for the instrument he holds and the fearlessness to explore and reach for new sounds with a childlike curiosity.
The previously mentioned limited edition vinyl version also includes a full album DL code, plus bonus track, tip-on jacket, and an exclusive 8 1/2" x 11" Matrix handbill reproduction. The CD / DL bonus track is Peter doing his best Lord Buckley, from the same studio session.
Walker's colorful past reveals a man equally at home in legal discourse with Kuntsler, as he is sitting at the feet of Ravi Shankar, soaking up the Sitar. He disappears for months to Peru and comes back sunbathed and dappled by the waves, his head full of new sounds and ideas. He makes regular pilgrimages to the caves of Grenada and Spain, the only gringo allowed into the dangerous and exciting world of the gypsy masters of Spanish guitar, where he is now considered a peer.
As previously mentioned, Peter was reinstated to public consciousness with the critically-acclaimed 2006 tribute album, "A Raga For Peter Walker". The ensuing years have included acclaimed concerts throughout Europe, and the US, two beautiful new albums of mostly Spanish guitar music, and a previously unissued collaboration with Maruga Booker, Badal Roy, and Perry Robinson, which was recorded at Levon Helm's barn in 1970.
An artist in the truest sense of the word, Walker uses the world as his canvas, distilling his experiences into the neck and body of his guitar, where they are transformed into a cacophony of sounds...dark, brooding, complex, atypical in rhythm and form, an experimental expression captivating the listener's ear, piece after piece.
More On: Peter Walker, Larry Coryell, Jack Rose, James Black, Thurston Moore, Union Pool, Mercury, John Blair, John Sinclair.