In French novelist Michel Houellebecq's oblique new sci-fi work, The Possibility of an Island, he details a future religion dubbed "Elohimism." Its ideals are rooted in consumer capitalism, "turning youth into the supremely desirable commodity, [which] had little by little destroyed respect for tradition and the cult of the ancestors—inasmuch as it promised the indefinite preservation of this same youth, and the pleasures associated with it."

With the passing of guitarist John Fahey in 2001, it seemed as if an entire school of acoustic-guitar playing had similarly been extinguished amid a cult of youth and electronics. His most notable peers, including Sandy Bull and Robbie Basho, had long since vanished from this earth, their steel strings resounding no more. It appeared the chalice had gone unpassed.

However, a new world of gifted players gradually has emerged in the 21st century. Whether it was Ben Chasny in northern California, Jack Rose in Richmond, Virginia, or Cul de Sac's Glenn Jones, a network was made tenable, connecting folks. Their music circulated and excavations were made, such as live Fahey and Bull recordings, as well as those by contemporaries of what was once deemed "the Berkeley Sound." Old players reemerged from the woodwork: Suni McGrath, Max Ochs, and Harry Taussig, the latter two players on the epochal Contemporary Guitar collection that Fahey's Takoma label released in 1967.

The Imaginational Anthem compilations—as crafted by the upstart Tompkins Square label—emulate that collection, bringing three generations of players together under the phantasmagorical music created on six ringing steel strings (as well as banjos and 12-string guitars). They not only reintroduce pickers like Ochs and Taussig to a new generation of ears, they also showcase a dazzling new wave of musicians, both young and old, colluding on an ancient tradition.

The second installation in the series roams even further afield: There's a muted instrumental from Swedish sensation Jose Gonzalez, a sparkling new Peter Lang recording, plus compositions from emotive female players like Sharron Kraus and Charalambides's Christina Carter. There's even a new recording from banjoist Billy Faier, who recorded for Riverside in the '50s and has the distinction of influencing both Ramblin' Jack Elliott and comedian Steve Martin.

The most spectacular recovery of the set though is a live recording of Robbie Basho. The first such tape to come to light (courtesy of Glenn Jones's personal stash), it captures the tour de force of his seldom-heard "Kowaka D'Amour." Effulgent and complex, Basho's song hovers in a place that recalls both driving Appalachian twang and snaking Indian raga, yet belongs to no earthly region, save the transcendent.

To celebrate the release of a second blissful volume of guitar meditations, a handful of Imaginational Anthem's twentysomething contributors have taken to the road. Sean Smith, originally from Monterey, California, now raises the banner in Berkeley, California. Once a hotbed for pickers like Fahey, Lang, and others, the city is experiencing a renaissance via the sparkling new work of Smith and others. He's a cornerstone of Tompkins's forthcoming Berkeley Guitar overview; to Imaginational Anthem Vol. 2 he contributes the bright and winding "What Blooms in Summer Dies in Winter." The UK's Sharron Kraus evokes the stark highlands sound of spiritual forbearers like Shirley Collins and Bert Jansch. Kraus received her doctorate in philosophy at Oxford, and her own work is similarly grounded in acknowledgment of the past. In partnership with singer Christian Kiefer on this year's The Black Dove, she focuses on the relationships that make up classic murder ballads. For her Imaginational Anthem Vol. 2 song, "Looking for the Hermit's Cave," she meticulously builds up banjo lines from a solemn pluck to a pulse-quickened step.

Fellow UK player James Blackshaw provides one of the year's most jaw-dropping musical moments. His "River of Heaven" opens the collection and it's exactly that: a coruscating stream of beatific fingerpicked sound, exquisite and unfathomable. Deep drones and effervescent flurries commingle, a direct descendent of Basho's style, as Blackshaw draws not just on the man's technique, but from some of his incandescence, as well. The ancestral fire undoubtedly burns on in this 24-year-old's fingertips.