Fingerpicking Good: Posthumous Rose record sounds a tragic note.

The first time I saw Jack Rose, who died in December at the age of 38, was at a dingy bar in Cleveland Park called Club Soda. It was the mid-’90s, and Rose was playing guitar with Pelt, a Virginia-based drone trio that recorded for the local VHF label. Nothing about that show, which was heavy on massed electric guitars and light on melody, suggested that Rose was interested in or capable of making sepia-toned Americana. And yet that became the focal point of Rose’s career as an acoustic guitarist, which became clear with his 2002 solo debut, Red Horse, White Mule, and continued until his swan song, Luck in the Valley. Recorded as a part of a “Ditch Trilogy” that includes 2008’s Dr. Ragtime and Pals and 2009’s Jack Rose and the Black Twig Pickers, the new album reflects Rose’s interest in, as he told the Web site Foxy Digitalis, “anything that’s pre-1942.” To Rose, this meant Cajun, country, blues, and jazz. He comes closest to true synthesis on the tracks that evoke the spirit of John Fahey, the virtuosic American fingerpicker who in the ’60s turned his passion for old 78 r.p.m. recordings into a deeply personal style of instrumental folk. You can hear echoes of Fahey’s recombinant efforts on the moody opening track, “Blues for Percy Danforth,” which, despite its title and Rose’s liberal use of slide, is as much raga as blues. There’s even more of an Indian influence on “Tree in the Valley,” a dark, modal piece that betrays Rose’s drone-rock roots in Pelt. But for the most part, Luck in the Valley is a celebration of American roots music. In particular, the jaunty album closer, a cover of the ragtime guitarist Blind Blake’s “West Coast Blues,” is exactly the sort of old-time music that sounds like a party. And like a party, the song features several less-than-essential guests—in this case, a banjo player and a junkyard percussionist. Elsewhere, on W.C. Handy’s “Saint Louis Blues,” an out-of-tune pianist and a tin-eared harmonica player threaten to overshadow Rose’s lovely slide work. There was plenty of that on display when I saw Rose play a solo show in 2005 in a group house on Florida Avenue. It’s hard to begrudge him the effort to stretch out and collaborate with musicians of a traditionalist bent. But now that this promising guitarist is gone, killed by what the New York Times obituary called an apparent heart attack, his every unadorned note seems that much more tragic and important.