Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect, as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. Today we’re taking a look at one of our favourite folk albums of the year, Mark Fosson’s excellent ‘Solo Guitar’
Regular readers may recall us singing the praises of Mark Fosson’s ‘Solo Guitar’ back in July; at the time we called it an album “plucked with precision and made with a real ear for melody” – and the subsequent months haven’t dulled the album’s power. It’s a well paced, varied collection of fully instrumental, unaccompanied acoustic guitar pieces; creating an engaging album with so little is challenge enough in itself, but to avoid repetition is even more impressive and it’s something that Fosson has managed to navigate gracefully here. The technicality of his playing is hard to ignore and whilst complex musicality doesn’t necessarily equate to a persuasive melodic bent, in this case the two coexist – and harmoniously, at that. ‘Solo Guitar’ is an album of winding, nuanced melodies and well-tempered playing; those enamoured by the niche but thriving modern fingerstyle guitar scene will certainly find a lot to appreciate here and it remains highly recommended.
Released via Drag City, this pressing impresses with both a very low – perhaps even nonexistent – noise floor and clean playback free of defects. Fosson’s guitar work is subtle and quiet enough that it wouldn’t be hard to notice noise on playback, so it’s an even bigger plus than usual that this pressing sounds excellent. The record itself is pressed onto good, solid wax weighing in at around 140g by our guess; visually speaking there are some marks from factory handling however these can only be seen when held at certain angles and it’s a purely cosmetic consideration with playback remaining unaffected throughout. Indeed, the sound quality is really strong on this release, both in the lack of surface noise and in the rich, shimmering quality of Fosson’s deftly handled guitar.
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The packaging and presentation on this release is relatively humble but certainly attractive. The non-gatefold sleeve is printed on fairly average weight card but print quality is very nice and the striking linocut artwork from Jules Heller looks great here. Although thin, the spine isn’t hard to find, as the chosen colour scheme allows the text to stand out clearly. Another subtle but worthwhile touch is the decision to present the barcode as a sticker on the shrinkwrap rather than printing it straight onto the sleeve – a definite positive as it can be removed if wanted. The included inner sleeve is a non-polylined generic affair, so replacement with a more protective sleeve would be worthwhile. The labels also deserve special mention, having an old-time aesthetic in keeping with the, at times, plaintively nostalgic mood of the album. Indeed, the labels feel almost as though they belong on a time-worn old 78 shellac disc rather than a 2017 vinyl release, but that’s no bad thing and certainly reinforces ‘Solo Guitar’s innate charm.
This is a great release of an excellent fingerstyle guitar album – playback is great and only compliments the music’s rich overtones and presentation is tasteful and in-keeping with the album’s atmosphere.