Awful news over the weekend: the wonderful guitarist, Jack Rose, died of a heart attack on Saturday. Of all the adventurous new American primitives who’ve emerged in the past decade, it’d be just to call Rose the most talented of them all; a warm, intuitive and truly inspired player who dissolved the lines between traditional and experimental music.

Awful news over the weekend: the wonderful guitarist, Jack Rose, died of a heart attack on Saturday. Of all the adventurous new American primitives who’ve emerged in the past decade, it’d be just to call Rose the most talented of them all; a warm, intuitive and truly inspired player who dissolved the lines between traditional and experimental music.

The easy reference for Rose’s playing was always John Fahey, as it has been for so many of his contemporaries. Unlike a good few of them, however, Rose’s knowledge extended far beyond the Takoma School, deep into the hinterlands of American roots music. He didn’t learn this music entirely second-hand, from the likes of Fahey; he had a historian’s passion and understanding for pre-war American music, and could re-invigorate it with a spirit that never seemed hokey or nostalgic.

Rose also, though, had a real gift for the drones and shifting textures of the avant-garde. When he combined this frequently ominous science with the downhome feel of his playing, the results were often extraordinary; not least in his earlier records as part of Pelt.

The last time I wrote about him here, around the time of his great jam with The Black Twig Pickers, I quoted something I’d read from him in a copy of Yeti. “We’re not dabbling with folk forms trying to make them contemporary or psychedelic,” he said. “We can actually play our instruments without the ‘free folk’ label, which I think lots of other musicians use to cover up their lack of musical skill. Plus, we swing like a motherfucker.”

As I write, I’m playing Rose’s last album, “Luck In The Valley”, his first for Thrill Jockey and due out early next year, which palpably bears this out. Although it could be a form of mourning to think of it this way, it really does sound like as good a record as he ever made, right up there with “Kensington Blues” and “Raag Manifestos”: an effortless combination of rattly, shitkicking old-time sessions (often in the company of the Black Twig Pickers again), interspersed with fluid, concentrated and staggeringly beautiful solo pieces.

Our condolences, obviously, go out to his family and friends. As a lover of his music, it’s a terrible loss; for those close to him, the impact must be incalculably greater