A lost session from a revered acoustic guitarist, Robbie Basho, is set to arrive April 3 from Real Gone Music. Songs of the Great Mystery: The Lost Vanguard Sessions adds a new chapter to the man’s work that’s sure to stun fans and new initiates, too.
On the Mount Rushmore of innovative acoustic guitar players, you’d likely find John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Michael Hedges…and one Robbie Basho. Though he never rose to the same prominence as Kottke or Fahey (who signed Basho to the Takoma label), his music was no less intense, inspired, and influential. His music was often guided by spirituality and had an other-worldly feel. Drawing from ragas and American folk, and armed with a set of special alternate tunings, Basho stunned anyone who’d listen to him.
When his friend and mentor Fahey moved from his independent label Takoma to the prestigious Vanguard label, Basho followed along. He released a pair of long-players – Voice of the Eagle (1972) and Zarthus (1974) – before moving to the Windham Hill label.
Since his untimely death in 1986, a legion of fans have sought to learn more about Basho, his guitar style, and the guiding principles that inspired his compositions. In 2009, one Basho expert, Glenn Jones, learned about the existence of a session tape once thought lost. Though it included some jaw-dropping, previously unheard performances, there was no documentation to explain exactly what it was.
While researching for this release, Jones uncovered that one marathon recording session resulted in Basho’s two Vanguard tapes and what he had was the remainder of that session. The reel contains some tracks he would rework on later releases. 1978’s Visions of the Country featured “A Day in the Life of Lemuria” (re-titled “Leaf in the Wind”) and “Night Way,” while “Laughing Thunder, Crawling Thunder” was eventually reworked as “Crashing Thunder for 1981’s Rainbow Thunder record. The new album features all these, alongside some never-before-heard compositions that are a welcome addition to the Basho discography.
Vanguard briefly released some of these sessions digitally, but Songs of the Great Mystery: The Lost Vanguard Sessions marks their physical debut. The alternate take of “A Day in the Life of Lemuria,” meanwhile, has never been released anywhere.
The new collection will be available on CD as well as a limited-edition 2-LP set on clear vinyl. The LP will be pressed at Gotta Groove, housed in a gatefold sleeve, and it’s strictly limited to 1,000 copies. No matter your preferred medium, the package includes track-by-track annotation, rare photos, while the music has been remastered by Mike Milchner at SonicVision.
Songs of the Great Mystery: The Lost Vanguard Sessions is sure to delight fans, who can also look forward to a new Robbie Basho documentary and box set soon. In the meantime, you can place those pre-orders and check out the full track listing below!
Robbie Basho, Songs of the Great Mystery: The Lost Vanguard Sessions (Real Gone Music, 2020)
1. A Day in the Life of Lemuria
2. Night Way
3. The Butterfly of Wonder
4. Laughing Thunder, Crawling Thunder
5. Thunder Sun
6. Kateri Tekakwitha
7. Thunder Love
8. Song of the Great Mystery
9. Death Song
10. A Day in the Life of Lemuria (Alternate Take)
Tracks 1-9 previously available on digital release Indian II, 2007.
Track 1 early version of “Leaf in the Wind,” eventually released on Visions of the Country, Windham Hill LP WHS C-1005, 1978.
Track 2 early version of track of the same name, eventually released on Visions of the Country, Windham Hill LP WHS C-1005, 1978.
Track 4 early version of “Crashing Thunder,” eventually released on Rainbow Thunder: Songs of the American West, Silver Label Recordings LP SLR-029, 1981.