Mark Fosson Credit: Fred Knittel

More than four decades ago, a prodigiously talented Kentucky guitarist named Mark Fosson earned the praise of the great John Fahey, who signed Fosson to his Takoma label on the strength of a demo tape. Fosson headed to LA and played some gigs with Fahey, but Takoma was in bad financial straits and the record never came out. Still, that near miss is largely responsible for the late-career bump Fosson has experienced over the past dozen years. In 2006 Drag City finally released that lost Takoma album, and six years later Tompkins Square issued Digging in the Dust: Home Recordings 1976, material made around the same time as those fateful demos. Fosson has since cut a couple self-released solo records, with 2015’s Ky decidedly reflecting his native state in its bluegrass flourishes and banjo dabbling. His newest album, Solo Guitar (Drag City), is the strongest of his late efforts, and not surprisingly it comes closest to the American Primitive sound created at Takoma, braiding folk, blues, and ragtime. Fosson isn’t attempting anything too tricky here, but he articulates his timeless-sounding melodies with rhythmic crispness, clear phrasing, and a gorgeous tone, accenting his rolling patterns with spry interjections of a single harmonics-soaked chord. On “Blue March Improvisation,” he taps into an elemental bluesiness—each phrase dissolves into the space Fosson leaves around it—while the ragtime piece “Wankomatic” showcases his ease in knitting together several contrapuntal lines, all of them pushing the song inexorably forward.   v