Based in Los Angeles, composer/guitarist Mark Leggett has staked a career in movies and television, writing scores for hundreds of films and projects ranging from Anne Frank’s Holocaust to Dinotasia to My Name Is Earl. He has a special genius for orchestral reworkings—especially evident on the Netflix series Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings—and occasionally takes time to release solo work, including Guitars & Blackbirds a 2023 album of Beatles covers, and Folktown, his first album of acoustic guitar compositions.
Over the years of working on documentaries, Leggett has become a master of tones and textures, of perfectly matching instruments and moods, of using tunings to create distinct, sonically rich backgrounds. Here, creating a world of his own, he turns his palette toward a timeless, placeless location: Folktown. In the six-note progression of “Simple Conversation,” he imagines a front porch dialogue that balances the call of a fingerpicked 1896 Joseph Bohmann steel-string with the response of a Takamine Hirade strung with nylon baritones. In “Goldsboro Getaway,” switching to slide, open E tuning, and a Taylor 352ce 12-string, he conjures a percussive, syncopated Piedmont blues that falls halfway between Blind Boy Fuller and Blind Willie McTell, equal parts sharp and sly.
There are other guitars, other tunings—a warm, lilting 1957 Gibson J-50 in open C, a reverbed electric-acoustic Carruthers ACS in dropped D, and an eerily melancholic Taylor 314ce tuned C# G# C# C# G# C#—each with its unique voice, depth, and colors. The tracks are recorded with a delicate hand on the console and the strings, and taken together, they make for an album that’s startlingly beautiful, Americana distilled into its essential, unknowable sweetness.