Acoustic Guitar Sessions Presents Richard Osborn’s Steel-String Ragas

Break out the champagne, confetti and noisemakers—this marks the 100th entry in the Acoustic Guitar Sessions series! From the outset, it has been the mission of Sessions to capture a broad range of artists working in many different styles, from soulful singer-songwriters to fingerstyle wizards, “name” performers and rising talents.

Richard Osborn‘s story stretches back to the Berkeley branch of Takoma Records’ steel-string guitar legacy in the late 1960s. He emulated the playing of John Fahey and studied for almost a year with  the great Robbie Basho, who pioneered what Osborn calls “free raga style,” which combines some of the structural elements of Indian classical music, improvisation, and acoustic guitar fingerpicking into a hypnotic and at times rhythmically intense weave. Along the way he was also heavily influenced by sarod master Ali Akbar Khan. Then came a years-long immersion in classical guitar, which came to an abrupt halt when he suffered a severe injury to his left hand.


It would be three decades before Osborn regained his form and emerged from his musical hiatus, again bent on further developing his unique strain of American raga guitar. His comeback began in earnest in 2010 with an appearance on a Tompkins Square label compilation called Beyond Berkeley Guitar. He’s followed that up with a pair of releases of his own: 2012’s Giving Voice: Guitar Explorations and his 2015 disc, Freehand.

He showed up for Acoustic Guitar Sessions with a pair of fine instruments: A Tsuneyuki (“Tony) Yamamoto 12-string and, serendipitous for what turned out to be the one-hundredth Session, a 100-year-old six-string made by a Philadelphia luthier. He performed a pair of instrumentals from his Freehand CD, “Cloud Towers” and “A Singing in the Blood.” The tuning on both tunes is C  G  C  G  C  D, what Basho called C2.

Prepare to be transported!

Mark Kemp
Mark Kemp

Former AG editor Mark Kemp is the author of Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South (Simon & Schuster, 2004; University of Georgia Press, 2006).

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