Discover Art Costa’s ‘Sounds Deep’ at BMAC, showcasing mystical deep-sea creatures in art. Join the talk on Dec. 14 for an immersive experience.
A rare performance by psych-folk legend Gary Higgins celebrating the 50th anniversery of his masterpiece: RED HASH. The night features instrumental memoirs and ruminations by American Primative guitarist Liam Grant, and Glenn Jones whose unparalleled musical skills and flair for storytelling shine on stage. Doors open at 7:30, Performances start shortly after 8pm.
Glenn Jones is an instrumentalist of unparalleled skill and creativity. A master of American Primitive Guitar, a style invented in the late 1950s by his friend and mentor, John Fahey, whose traditional fingerpicking techniques and wide-ranging influences were used to create modern original compositions. Jones, who led the post-rock ensemble Cul de Sac, brings his own made-up tunings, the use of custom-crafted partial capos, and a highly skilled picking style on both banjo and guitar, to create personal compositions that are lyrical, emotive and elegant. What sets him apart from the myriad guitarists playing today is his ability to tell stories with the guitar and banjo, escaping the known to navigate new and unfamiliar landscapes. “But it’s my hope,” he says, “that what you hear are not the tunings and partial capos and all that, but the music — the feeling within these pieces.”
Liam Grant is a New England guitarist with a punk ethos, cut from the American Primitive cloth. Conjuring worlds both unknown and familiar Grant evokes the sounds of the landscape in which he was raised. Personal instrumental memoirs and ruminations on the banks of the Merrimack River. Amoskeag. And the place where the waters flow around it. Salmon tails up the falls and black pearls from the river. The exodus to Stratton-Eustis and the Last Night on the Dead River before the great flood. The restless guitar explorations, modal epics, and driving uptempo rags recall the likes of Grant’s pedagogue: Takoma Records, and the path that was paved by his forebears John Fahey, Robbie Basho, and later Glenn Jones, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Jack Rose, and others.
‘Although only 23 years old, Liam’s become a leading force in a much needed third wave revival of American Primitive music. Despite his age, Liam’s the very definition of ‘an old soul’ and while he draws on a wide variety of contemporary influences, he also channels a comprehensive history of the blues as well as a deeper energy that informs both his playing and songwriting.’ – Rob Vaughn, Portland, Oregon – July 2023
The psych-folk masterpiece by Gary Higgins “The Legend of Red Hash” turns 50 years old this year! This obscure and mysterious musical gem was coveted by record collectors for decades until it’s recent re-issue on Drag City. Here’s a brief history of Red Hash published in the NYTimes by Marc Weingarten:
MAY 1965: Gary Higgins, a native of Sharon, Conn., starts playing in a rock band called Random Concept with five friends, included singer Simeon Coxe, who’d go on to form the legendary Silver Apples. The band plays the Greenwich Village circuit, where it backs up Gary U.S. Bonds and the singer Dee Dee Sharp. Eventually it becomes the house band at the Hookah club in Torrington, Conn.
MARCH 1971: Random Concept breaks up; Mr. Higgins forms an acoustic band called Wooden Wheel.
OCTOBER 1972: Mr. Higgins is arrested in a drug sting and convicted of selling marijuana.
FEBRUARY 1973, before his incarceration, he records “Red Hash” while out on bail and awaiting his sentence, Higgins went into the studio with members of Random Concept and the Wooden Wheel for a series of round-the-clock sessions, adding guitar and drums himself. Eleven songs from those sessions would become Red Hash, a free-flowing, meditative blend of bucolic folk, gentle psychedelia, and slowly unfolding melodies. Despite the warm pastoral feel of tracks like “Cuckoo” and “Down on the Farm,” his sometimes fragile singing is colored with a deep sadness. Higgins was sentenced to five to ten years and imprisoned before the album could be mixed or mastered.
MARCH 1973: Mr. Higgins enters the maximum-security state prison in Somers, Conn., where he will serve 13 months. “Red Hash” will be released on the Nufusmoon label while he is behind bars. The title came from a nickname the other inmates had given the redheaded Higgins.
APRIL 1974: Mr. Higgins is released and takes a number of odd jobs, including dishwasher and waiter.
1990’s: “Red Hash” is rediscovered by collectors of vinyl albums. Unbeknownst to Higgins at the time, a cult was sprouting up around the record. Psych and folk collectors were passing copies around, and tracks aired regularly on tastemaking radio station WFMU. In the late 90s Italy’s Flash Records put out a CD bootleg, and before long original copies of the LP were fetching hundreds of dollars on eBay. Adding to the allure was the mystery surrounding Higgins–almost nothing was known about him.
JULY 2003: The vinyl enthusiast Zach Cowie is given a CD burn of “Red Hash” by Ben Chasny of the band Comets on Fire. Entranced, Mr. Cowie is determined to track down Mr. Higgins and release the album on the Chicago independent label Drag City, where he works. Over the next year, he contacts every Gary Higgins he can locate in the United States.
NOVEMBER 2004: Mr. Cowie hits pay dirt when he gets an e-mail message from Mr. Higgins, now a registered nurse in Connecticut, who writes that he is “flattered and a bit amazed that there are some folks out there that still find pleasure from the music.”
JULY 2005: Mr. Higgins plays his first solo show ever in New York, at Tonic on the Lower East Side; his backup band includes some members of Random Concept. The first pressing of 5,000 CD’s of “Red Hash” immediately sells out.
“Red Hash unfolds as a series of cyclical strummed melodies and lyrics that float by like ominous daydreams”-New York Times
“On Red Hash, his guitar and soulsick (but often uplifting) voice are accented with rich cello, piano, organ, mandolin, flute, and bass. The sounds are melancholy but never unaccessible: This is folk both your uncle and WFMU will (and do) love.” -Pitchfork