As far as records go, Harry Taussig's Fate Is Only Once
is about as rare as they come. Recorded in 1965 as a short-run private pressing, this is Taussig's only full-length recording, which has not been previously re-released. Thus Fate Is Only Once
has been a long sought after collectible for folk guitar enthusiasts, most of whom by necessity will forever remain empty handed. That is, unless they can be placated by this CD release of Fate Is Only Once
by Tompkins Square. It's a terrific album of unassuming folk tunes that deserved to be resuscitated.
Taussig's style is nimble and precise without the "how can he do that?" reaction that comes from listening to Leo Kottke or John Fahey. None of these songs are written by Taussig; rather, they are adaptations of folk tunes and popular songs of days of yore. Most of them succeed splendidly. The Gary Davis tunes that kick off the CD are textbook finger-picking, and songs like "Dark Town Strutter's Ball" take the songs in directions the composers likely never intended. "Sugar Babe, Your Papa Cares for You" is a fantastic song played on the 12-string that is about as Fahey-like as a player can get.
Taussig stumbles a bit on the second half. "Dorian Sonata" is a meandering exploration of that mode which doesn't seem completely developed, and the downright awful title track begins with the wince-inducing beginning of playing all the open strings in standard tuning (an amateur's trick), and never develops into anything remotely interesting after that.
Despite all this, Fate Is Only Once is a great listen that recreates a style of music rarely heard today. Taussig never recorded again after this, which makes this record all the more special. Wherever he may be, he can rest assured that he took advantage of an opportunity to record a gem.
Personnel: Harry Taussig: guitar.