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The great fingerstyle guitarist Peter Lang is playing in Chicago on Saturday night, October 21, at the Heartland Cafe (7000 N. Glenwood; 773-465-8005), and the date has attracted little fanfare; I only noticed his appearance in the venue’s ad in the Reader a few days ago. With the neofolk/freak folk/whatever crowd eagerly searching out forgotten figures from the 60s and 70s, and in particular still clamoring for the work of John Fahey and disciples like Robbie Basho -- whose superb album Venus in Cancer was reissued earlier this year by Tompkins Square Records -- and Mark Fosson, it's surprising that Lang’s work has yet to be dug up.
Fahey discovered Lang in 1972, and the following year Fahey's label, Takoma, released his brilliant debut album, The Thing at the Nursery Room Window, which demonstrated stunning technical mastery on a slew of original compositions. His melodic imagination was on par with any fingerstyle guitarist of the era, and his feeling for the blues ran deep, with a strong acumen for slide playing. In 1974 he was featured on an excellent Takoma compilation with Fahey and labelmate Leo Kottke. He went on to make several more albums during the 70s, though he made the unfortunate decision to open his mouth and sing.
By the early 80s he was sick of the indifference for acoustic music, and after consistently losing money on tours he put away his guitar. For the next two decades he ran an animation studio and produced television commercials. But five years ago he returned to music, releasing Dharma Blues, his first new album since 1978, and in 2004 he released a follow-up, Guitar. (Both albums are on Horus, which I suspect is Lang’s own imprint.) While he still sings way too much for my tastes, his playing remains impressive. You can hear some MP3s of his recent work here.