Richard Crandell

After following a woman west in the early 1970s, Richard Crandell found himself living in a rooming house in Berkeley, California, with little more than a Martin D28. Jobless, he spent his time buying Fahey and Kottke LPs at Moe’s Records on Telegraph Avenue for $2, learning and transcribing them note for note before returning them for a full refund the next day. That same certain woman led him north to Eugene, Oregon, where she was living with Mark Zorn—older brother to John Zorn—who actually owned the bulk of the albums Crandell had been buying and returning, allowing him to spend days, not hours, getting all the difficult parts down.

Oregon suited Crandell well, and he soon found himself living in a cut-rate apartment within shouting distance of Bill Bartells, a phenomenal Virginia-born guitar player. Bartells was extraordinarily proficient at an obscure method of playing called "architectonics," a methodology that emphasized moving fingers about the frets in repetitive, tactile patterns regardless of harmony. Their collaborations pushed Crandell to another level, resulting in 1974’s “Rebecca.” Through an odd set of circumstances, he ended up backstage at a concert playing the tune for Mimi Farina. Leo Kottke overheard it, introduced himself, and asked for Crandell’s phone number. Later that night, Crandell’s phone rang and Kottke tendered an invitation to join him in his room at the Ramada. They stayed up all night exchanging songs and stories, and a few months later Kottke’s flawless version of “Rebecca” appeared on 1975's Chewing Pine.

Crandell's In The Flower Of Our Youth was recorded in 1980 and pressed with the help of a loan from the artist's sister. Much of the pressing was sold at the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Crandell had landed a gig playing for several hours every single day of the event. This minor success lead to the Oregon Hill LP, a duet with his old friend Bartells. In the late 1990s, Crandell worked as the tour bus driver for Thomas Mapfumo and managed to pick up the mbira while spending time with the band. He has since gained more national notoriety than he ever had for his guitar playing by cutting two discs of layered mbira music for old friend John Zorn’s envelope-pushing Tzadik label.

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