Search and Destroy: John Fahey

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Where should I begin?
I only know about Fahey because of Jim O'Rourke, but I heard their collaboration isn't all that great. What do you think?

lou, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Recommended: Volume 1: Blind Joe Death (Takoma, TAK 7002) LP
Volume 2: Death Chants, Breakdowns, & Military Waltzes (Takoma, C 1003) LP
Volume 3: The Dance of Death & Other Plantation Favorites (Takoma, TAK 7004) LP
The Voice of the Turtle (Takoma, C-1019) LP
Volume 4: The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party and Other Excursions (Takoma, C 1008) LP
Volume 5: The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death (Riverboat, RB 1) LP
Volume 6: Days Have Gone By (Takoma, C-1014) LP
Requia and Other Compositions for Guitar Solo (Vanguard, VSD- 79259) LP
The Yellow Princess (Vanguard, VSD-79293) LP
America (Takoma, C-1030) LP
Fare Forward Voyagers (Soldier's Choice) (Takoma, C-1035) LP
Of Rivers and Religion (Reprise, MS 2089) LP
Railroad I (Takoma, TAK 7102) LP
City of Refuge (Tim/Kerr, 644 830 127-2) CD
Womblife (Table of the Elements, 37 Rubidium) CD
Hitomi (LivHouse Records, 70334 90001 2) CD
Womblife is the one produced by O'Rourke, I actually think it's pretty good.

hstencil, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Search this article.

Keiko, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

he's good, he's fine, i'm sick of people blathering on and on about him. my favorite recordings of his, other than the earliest stuff, are on "the millpond" 2x7" that little brother put out. noisy, creaking, fucked up death blues.

your null fame, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

The soundtrack to the game Diablo is pretty good (not really) and sounds kind of like Fahey. What I've heard of his stuff is dull, especially the record with Cul De Sac.

adam, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

What I've heard of his stuff is dull, especially the record with Cul De Sac.

Ok I'll aggree that the colaboration with Cul De Sac its not his best work, but most of his Takoma records are well worth investgating. America and Live In Tasmania are in high rotation around my place. I aslo remember hearing several CD-Rs of unreleased material being broadcasted on WFMU after his death. Anyone got copies of those??

brg30, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Just got Vol 4: etc at the used place the other day, and it seems reasonably cool. Really fucked-up lo-fi, kinda creepy haunting stuff from what I've heard so far. Also picked up Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, which is ze classik. If you're looking for a good entry point you can certainly do worse than picking up the Rhino anthology Return of the Repressed.

Sean Carruthers, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I Remember Otis Wheeler

Tracer Hand, Sunday, 21 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I remember earlier in this thread

Josh, Sunday, 21 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Mr Stencil lists most of the good'uns - I'm not that fussed abt 'Voice of the Turtle', personally, and some of the others I think are a bit patchy (eg 'Great San Bernardino Birthday Party' and 'Hitomi', for starters...) I can also take or leave (mostly leave) the two Xmas recs.

Apart from that Rhino comp, 'America' is prob. the best all-round intro, esp. the extended CD version (rub sleevenotes by Charles Young, tho'...) 'Days Like These' strikes a gd balance between Fahey's more trad early blues-based style and the later tape loop/freeform stuff - ditto 'Requia'. I have a real soft spot for the two orch/jazz Reprise albs, 'Of Rivers and Religion' and esp. 'After the Ball'.

And if you like O'Rourke's sub-Fahey stuff, I'd say check out Robbie Basho (there's a gd 'Best Of' on Ace/Takoma) and esp. Sandy Bull, who was doing the whole orch psych/pop thing years before 'Bad Timing'...

Andrew L, Sunday, 21 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Oh and Davey Graham and John Renbourn, also

Andrew L, Sunday, 21 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

http://gs.cdnow.com/graphics/COVERART/local/L/90/71/00389071.jpg

not to be overlooked...

Steve K, Monday, 22 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I'm surprised no one has mentioned my favorite Fahey album yet: God, Time and Causality. Although a studio recording, it has the feeling of a prime live performance, and it shows how much Fahey was capable of with nothing more than a steel-string guitar at his disposal.

o. nate, Wednesday, 24 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I grew up hearing John Fahey in between all the punk and reggae and new wave on John Peel's Radio Show and I always loved his music even though it was like nothing else I liked. I haven't got enough of his stuff! The first album I got was "Death Chants, Breakdowns, & Military Waltzes" which I absolutely adore, it is a quite wonderful record.

I've also got "Yellow Princess" and "Requia", these are from around 1967-68 and you can tell. I prefer "Yellow Princess", though it took me a while to get really into it. The tape/ concrete music stuff on "Requia" just isn't well enough done to be interesting, it's very hamfisted - stick to guitar John!

A recent acquisition is "After the Ball". This is one of the Fahey albums you're supposed to avoid but if you ignore the straight dixieland jazz of the title track and "New Orleans Shuffle", it's really an exquisite little album, stuff like "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" and "When You Wore A Tulip (And I Wore A Big Red Rose)" could bring a tear to a glass eye! I just wish it was a bit longer!

KCoyne, Tuesday, 6 August 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

two years pass...
search: "tuff" from the unreleased azalea city memories which is available on the best of john fahey vol. 2

it's not quite like anything else he's done. has much to do with the lp old girlfriends and other horrible memories, which looked back to fahey's childhood in 1950s suburban washington d.c., but in a different way from the proposed azalea city memories.

anyway, the late 80s/early 90s are generally thought to be fahey's down years. he had some sort of syndrome, whose name i don't recall, that effect his playing before he was diagnosed and treated (was it epstein-barr??). but "tuff" is extraordinary.

amateur!!!st, Wednesday, 18 August 2004 19:00 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

yeah it was e-b. Had some other probs too though.

hstencil (hstencil), Wednesday, 18 August 2004 19:08 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

No love for A New Possibility?

Mark (MarkR), Wednesday, 18 August 2004 19:21 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Really, there's an unreleased Fahey alb? You can bet that will get issued by someone at some point.

Monetizing Eyeballs (diamond), Wednesday, 18 August 2004 19:37 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

there's shitloads of unreleased fahey. revenant promised to release some of it long ago, but hasn't made good yet.

amateur!!st, Wednesday, 18 August 2004 19:41 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

From the AMG review of Live in Tasmania: "The transcendent moment of this album, and one of the finest pieces of Fahey's career, is "Indian-Pacific R.R. Blues," a complex work that has elements of ragtime, blues, and Americana strung together into a magical whole. It was a marvelous gift to an audience that had probably never heard of him five days before."

Except it's the studio recording of "Beverly" from After the Ball with studio-looped cheers tacked on at the end. Never seen this addressed by Fahey or his documentarians; Fahey seemed to be pretty open, even a myth-buster, in his later years. Anyone know of a mention?

Chris Ott (Chris Ott), Thursday, 19 August 2004 12:17 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

eight months pass...
Live In Tasmania seems really good for the type of music it is, but it's too close to American roots music for me. I need that sort of thing twisted up more.

RS_LaRue (RSLaRue), Sunday, 8 May 2005 13:46 (twelve years ago) Permalink

I am completely obsessed with the track "The Yellow Princess" and can leave that song on repeat for extended periods of time. What other tracks/albums have that similar style?

Ernest P. (ernestp), Sunday, 8 May 2005 18:33 (twelve years ago) Permalink

try "fare forward voyagers" for another extended piece (even better!)

Amateur(ist) (Amateur(ist)), Sunday, 8 May 2005 18:42 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Live In Tasmania seems really good for the type of music it is, but it's too close to American roots music for me. I need that sort of thing twisted up more.

You might want to look into Matt Valentine's stuff, esp. the recent Ragas and Blues and Glorious Group Therapy.

Ian John50n (orion), Sunday, 8 May 2005 18:56 (twelve years ago) Permalink

he does some nice playing on Jack Nitzsche's "Three Piece Suite." Great conceptualist, not my favorite kind of guitar-playing, but excellent in small doses.

edd s hurt (ddduncan), Sunday, 8 May 2005 19:09 (twelve years ago) Permalink

the san bernadino birthday party is excellent

kyle (akmonday), Sunday, 8 May 2005 19:17 (twelve years ago) Permalink

three months pass...
is there any way of listening to "the approaching of the disco void" & not think of the town music in the first diablo? aargh.

etc, Tuesday, 23 August 2005 22:00 (twelve years ago) Permalink

i have never played diablo.
the last computer game i really played was, like, myst or some shit. i kinda stopped after that.

my favorite john fahey moments are prob--
"knot's berry farm molly"
"when the springtime comes again"
"i am the ressurection"

Ian John50n (orion), Tuesday, 23 August 2005 22:05 (twelve years ago) Permalink

amateurist's recommendation of "tuff" is pretty funny in hindsight.

hstencil (hstencil), Tuesday, 23 August 2005 22:25 (twelve years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
I wonder if he listened to Yomo Toro at all.

Rockist_Scientist (RSLaRue), Saturday, 5 November 2005 01:59 (eleven years ago) Permalink

His books really are the shit and i recommend everybody with the slightest interest in the man tracks down "how bluegrass music destroyed my life" and "vampire vultures" beautiful folksy coruscating touching stuff in a sublimely mentalese skew

bob snoom (vestibule), Tuesday, 8 November 2005 17:42 (eleven years ago) Permalink

four years pass...

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/artsdesk/general/2010/02/22/dust-to-digitals-john-fahey-box-may-come-out-in-august/
Dust-To-Digital’s John Fahey Box May Come Out In August
great intro there :/

tylerw, Monday, 22 February 2010 21:49 (seven years ago) Permalink

obviously this is excellent

ogmor, Monday, 22 February 2010 21:54 (seven years ago) Permalink

yeah, it's gonna be sweet

tylerw, Monday, 22 February 2010 21:55 (seven years ago) Permalink

amateurist's recommendation of "tuff" is pretty funny in hindsight.
― hstencil (hstencil), Tuesday, August 23, 2005 5:25 PM (4 years ago) Bookmark

wait, why?

by another name (amateurist), Tuesday, 23 February 2010 00:42 (seven years ago) Permalink

also am i wrong or is this quote from lance ledbetter kind of incoherent?:

“To me what John Fahey represents is a little bit like what Harry Smith represents to old music. The old-time records that were made in the 20s and 30s, everyone sees Harry Smith as this gateway. For me, and for a lot of people, John Fahey is in that same category….When he first started making these records, he was a teenager….At the same time, from a music historian standpoint, knowing what John Fahey became just to hear him working it out on these recordings, especially the early ones, you learn a lot where his mind was… and the later material is right there with some of his great work. It’s John where he’s been playing for four, five hours everyday.”

by another name (amateurist), Tuesday, 23 February 2010 00:44 (seven years ago) Permalink

I think 'Tuff' was one of the Charlie Schmidt songs that snuck on to the that Fahey comp. Not really funny.

That quote is real murky, like Harry Smith:'old-time'::John Fahey:¿John Fahey?

ogmor, Tuesday, 23 February 2010 01:17 (seven years ago) Permalink

There are shitloads of little winks in the form of deliberate anomalies in Fahey's discography, but I don't think Fahey was just being a dick w/ Voice Of The Turtle or whatever.

ogmor, Tuesday, 23 February 2010 01:20 (seven years ago) Permalink

It's not an incomprehensible quote, but it's to very eloquent either.

Joint Custody (ian), Tuesday, 23 February 2010 01:21 (seven years ago) Permalink

it's a lot of little thoughts I agree with that don't have much to do w/ each other. editor done the man no favours.

ogmor, Tuesday, 23 February 2010 01:25 (seven years ago) Permalink

I think 'Tuff' was one of the Charlie Schmidt songs that snuck on to the that Fahey comp. Not really funny.

whoa! never knew that. another dadaist provocation from john-beyond-the-grave? anyway, i suppose this justifies my description of it as "not quite like anything else he's done.

by another name (amateurist), Tuesday, 23 February 2010 01:53 (seven years ago) Permalink

iirc he had tapes of charlie he intended to fob off to shanachie in the late 80s - same time he gave them decade-old recordings to release as new (god time&causality) - and clearly they remained kicking around deceptively labelled and slipped by whoever put the comp together.

ogmor, Tuesday, 23 February 2010 02:01 (seven years ago) Permalink

that's so great! awesome to hear the moment something lodges into fahey's mind that would come out on his last album over 35 years later.

ogmor, Wednesday, 24 February 2010 19:11 (seven years ago) Permalink

some more fahey goodies to tide us over til the box set: http://delta-slider.blogspot.com/

tylerw, Wednesday, 24 February 2010 19:21 (seven years ago) Permalink

Any good Fahey albums with lots of backing instruments - aka Bryter Layter - Nick Drake?

CaptainLorax, Wednesday, 24 February 2010 19:50 (seven years ago) Permalink

there's some stuff where he's backed by a dixieland kinda band, but that might not be what you're looking for.

tylerw, Wednesday, 24 February 2010 19:53 (seven years ago) Permalink

probably not :/

CaptainLorax, Wednesday, 24 February 2010 19:54 (seven years ago) Permalink

you probably know it, But Jim O'Rourke's Bad Timing would scratch that itch ...

tylerw, Wednesday, 24 February 2010 19:54 (seven years ago) Permalink

good call. there are always the christmas LPs with the 2nd guitar, but those aren't really that good...

by another name (amateurist), Wednesday, 24 February 2010 20:09 (seven years ago) Permalink

Quick note, the version of "Tuff" that appears on the Cul De Sac collab is indeed Fahey. The one that appears on the 1977-19whatever "Best of" is a Charlie Schmidt song that is totally different. I really do dig Fahey's version. Been awhile since I've listened to the other one.

global tetrahedron, Friday, 29 June 2012 00:31 (five years ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

Some of this live John Fahey (on Sea Changes and Coelacanths) reminds me a bit of Durutti Column. Does Reilly have any known (long-standing) admiration for Fahey? I suppose a guitar is going to sound a little like a guitar in general.

_Rudipherous_, Saturday, 14 July 2012 05:12 (five years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

listening to this new to me concert from 1975 on wolfgang's vault: http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/john-fahey/concerts/great-american-music-hall-august-08-1975-1st-set.html
so great. the intro to "red pony" sounds like fahey's about to go full on metal.

tylerw, Monday, 5 November 2012 19:29 (four years ago) Permalink

eleven months pass...

IN SEARCH OF BLIND JOE DEATH: THE SAGA OF JOHN FAHEY
A documentary on folk, blues and beyond music legend John Fahey, native of Takoma Park, Maryland.

Two shows only! Oct. 26 & 27, 1:00 p.m. near Washington D.C. at the AFI Silver - 8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring

www.afi.com/silver

curmudgeon, Friday, 18 October 2013 14:29 (three years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

yeah we were freaking out about those over on the post-Takoma thread

sleeve, Friday, 31 January 2014 16:03 (three years ago) Permalink

oh cool that's exciting!

sXe & the banshees (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 10 February 2014 16:11 (three years ago) Permalink

Yeah, gonna check that out at some point!

Listening to "Vol. 6 Days Have Gone By" for the first time in a while by the way UMS, thanks for plunking that in my head.

grandavis, Monday, 10 February 2014 16:23 (three years ago) Permalink

anyone know steve lowenthal? how should i calibrate my expectations? days have gone by is def a transitional record, has the last of the really good old recordings on, he was turning professional about then, has his sound collage stuff, by the time he got to voice of the turtle that early takoma shtick had bulged to byzantine, ridiculous, self-parodying levels (yellow princess was a different thing). days have gone by is mb the best fahey though, first 6 tracks are pretty much all incredible classics.

ogmor, Monday, 10 February 2014 17:20 (three years ago) Permalink

looks like he is the dude behind this label: http://www.vdsqrecords.com/
so he'd probably fit in over on the ilx brigade thread

tylerw, Monday, 10 February 2014 17:23 (three years ago) Permalink

has he written much before?

ogmor, Monday, 10 February 2014 17:26 (three years ago) Permalink

that looks interesting... i'm very curious about the format, how much will be stitched-together interviews, how much narrative there'll be...

ogmor, Monday, 10 February 2014 17:32 (three years ago) Permalink

Think Lowenthal might also be one of the people behind Swingset (which I have only read a couple of times, so not sure how much that means):

http://swingsetmagazine.com/about/

grandavis, Monday, 10 February 2014 17:49 (three years ago) Permalink

Issues of Swingset I bought were pretty cool, mostly just interviews and reviews of weirdo stuff, but he has been at "it" since 2001 at least if he is the same guy.

grandavis, Monday, 10 February 2014 17:50 (three years ago) Permalink

looks promising! will read.

tylerw, Monday, 10 February 2014 17:55 (three years ago) Permalink

nine months pass...

Verrrrry late to the party here, but a good portion of this Fahey Fonotone Years box set is terrific. I was misled by an early listen to those, err, admittedly tough "Blind Thomas" tunes and a friend who referred to the box set as 'unnecessary,' but I'm finding most of it engrossing and much of it at least on par with a lot of Fahey's best early stuff.

Jimmywine Dyspeptic, Monday, 17 November 2014 06:16 (two years ago) Permalink

haha, yeah, some of that vocal stuff is kind of rough going (though occasionally pretty funny), but there is more than enough amazing material to make up for it.

tylerw, Monday, 17 November 2014 15:51 (two years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

fahey week at delta slider is in full swing! i wrote up an interesting radio performance/interivew from the early 90s today. http://delta-slider.blogspot.com/

tylerw, Thursday, 26 February 2015 17:35 (two years ago) Permalink

heard mixed things about this documentary, but so far the highlight has been seeing joe bussard play + interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p--IpvvFJ4A

global tetrahedron, Monday, 2 March 2015 22:07 (two years ago) Permalink

i thought the documentary was pretty bland overall but the bussard bit was excellent. idk why they spent like 5 minutes talking to some dipshit from the decembrists who looked straight off a barenaked ladies album cover

adam, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 04:54 (two years ago) Permalink

I enjoyed the documentary. But I don't know enough about his life to take issue with what they may have left out.

And honestly they didn't spend very much time with the Decemberists guy. I really didn't find his presence that annoying, and I'm not going to otherwise complain about him just cause I also don't like the Decemberists.

Evan, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 15:01 (two years ago) Permalink

he is probably a cool guy.
the zabriskie point tapes are interesting! very meandering, but in a good way for the most part. all solo, wonder if there are any tapes floating around w/ various collaborators (fahey mentions bringing in other musicians).

tylerw, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 15:28 (two years ago) Permalink

i didn't mind the decemberist guy or even townsend but it was a little weird to reach out to them and not, say, Peter Lang or Leo Kottke who were close associates to Fahey and might have a had a little more to add other than "I like John Fahey a lot"

kurt kobaïan (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 3 March 2015 15:36 (two years ago) Permalink

yeah opening on townsend was really weird, i was struggling to draw a line between their respective playing

adam, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 15:40 (two years ago) Permalink

True! Was hoping Glenn Jones would show up too.

Either way, if you can get Townsend to say meaningful things in your documentary, it's probably worth including, if for no other reason but to get Fahey material more attention through association.

Evan, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 15:41 (two years ago) Permalink

To that point, maybe they had him appear immediately to hook any casual viewers mostly unfamiliar with Fahey.

Evan, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 15:42 (two years ago) Permalink

I wonder if there is pressure for documentary makers to pepper in star-power for that reason, like from a marketing stand point you need some percentage of star names to call out in promotional materials.

Evan, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 15:52 (two years ago) Permalink

yeah actually townsend is townsend so i'm cool w.him overall & he was a big fan I know Fahey kinda patted him on the head when Pete wrote him and had him listen to Tommy haha

i mean i get it definitely, both are in there for interest, i just thought it was kind of lazy not to have leo or peter in, as i think both are pretty accessible and i dunno, it's like they were so close to him

kurt kobaïan (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 3 March 2015 15:52 (two years ago) Permalink

Hey, maybe they tried who knows.

Evan, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 20:12 (two years ago) Permalink

kinda want a 9-part ken burns doc on the american primitive scene through the ages. what are the odds!?

tylerw, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 20:22 (two years ago) Permalink

maybe dave grohl could narrate

tylerw, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 20:25 (two years ago) Permalink

I think the topic would make a better 1 of a 9 part series about traditional blues

Evan, Tuesday, 3 March 2015 20:31 (two years ago) Permalink

or rhythm and blues, pace pete townsend

I dunno. (amateurist), Tuesday, 3 March 2015 20:33 (two years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

At a friend's urging, I've finally checked out some Faheytronica: part 1 of my first-listening notes:

after googling started with Requia, "Requiem For Molly," in four parts.
Part 1 turns out to be very handsome, perhaps courtly but not genteel solo guitar,
the other three parts include "sonic collages." as online sources put it ( with which he is assisted by music writer Barry Hansen, AKA Dr. Demento, maestro of the syndicated novelty radio show). "Collage" is especially appropriate because the news reel etc. bits sound like animated newspaper clippings, maybe wiggling envelopes sometimes, and mainly I like the way their contours and the pacing of placement---also the cadences and intonation of spoken word and other sounds, Hitler and bombers and so on, go with the guitar sound. Fahey said later he didn't like the results, though did consider this experiment a valuable "learning experience." It's not that different from other "underground" tracks you find on LPs of that era, '67 or so, in terms of choosing what we'd call samples, but I haven't heard any other American artist from that neck of the woods--the rock folk weirdo neck---who made it all work as this kind of ambient experience, social commentary and hipster humor aside, although I guess those might be in there too (first listening)

Probably better though--not as dependent on my own quirks/glosses of hearing----is "The Singing Bridge of Memphis Tennessee," from The Yellow Princess: much more sophisticated, in terms of no newsreel, newspaper clippings glued on, just what does indeed sound like a singing bridge---of steel guitar strings, various other metals used in constructing a bridge over a body of water, maybe some water effects pulled in, vibrations and whistles and other nice things (incl vocal?), all layered and merged, just attached and distinct enough. It's based in part on "Quill Blues" by Big Boy Cleveland, and may incl. some of that original recording (think I saw that statement or speculation somewhere)

The Epiphany of Glenn Jones is all over the place,
Conceptually I totally dig the opener, "Tuff, " right away, although the glacial zen groove trek had me nodding a bit, so it turns out even good drones can do that, h'mm.
"Gamelan Collage" different enough to keep me awake, but lost me sometimes,
"Maggie Campbell Blues" quite splendid courtship again,
"New Red Pony" is heavy smokey red rock, awright,
"Out Puppet Selves" is UFO Bebe Barron dub plate equiv of op art, which I like: if you're gonna go this way, bear down on the basic texture FX, awright again.
"Gamelan Guitar" like a real good dream I forget right after it's over (but I can go back again to this dream, yay).
This version of "Come On In My Kitchen" is discreetly tweaked, also tweeked, just enough to enhance it in ways prob unnec but v enjoyable.
"Magic Mountain" is back to the science fiction soundtrack, but much more varied than "Out Puppet Selves," and a little too soft-focus for me, so far.
The spoken word-based closers go on very long, though I like that, even though Fahey keeps ending up with nothing, even when the pretty lady persuades him to board the bus to scenic Exstinkyville, he eventually (very eventuallly) remembers "the basic dialectic of life," or some kind of dialectin and sings a hearty "No-o-o," then an equally hearty "Ye-e--e-s," continuing while the band makes noise around him.
Next will be City of Refuge, Womblive, The Mill Pond EP, located here and there, mostly posted track by track on YouTube. The albums I'm talking about above are all on Spotify, at least the version we get over here. (Meaning America; guy I was responding to is in Europe.)

dow, Tuesday, 26 April 2016 22:25 (one year ago) Permalink

Pt. 2, dammit! (Maybe some of this will sound better as I listen more; despite what I said toward the end, I did keep all of City and Womblife)(Snapped up The Mill Pond EP from WFMU)

Starting again with City of Refuge, which chronologically I should have listened to before Epiphany, which Glenn J. meant as a corrective to the former, to save his hero and help him find a way to say the new thing he was trying to say. Later, he also writes, he decided both albums what Fahey meant them to be: photographs of him at the time they were made. However, after hearing City, I gotta say, "Thanks GJ and Cul De Sac (and God I wish you could have pulled him back from Womblife, although The Mill Pond works fine")!---but I'm getting ahead of myself).
CoR: "Fanfare" is well-named: flourishes, with buzzy picking and strumming and chopping.
The second track seems more like tuning up and/or down, who cares, ditto for the title.
"City of Refuge I"' is 20-odd minutes long, first half feat. ominous peg-twisting and whatnot. The second turns up a skeletal pattern, then a sunny stroll-along, and then somewhat merges the two motifs, in a natural way: you go for a stroll, you and your shadow (not the song of that title, just the thing that happens). Wanders off somewhere, but with a good edit, hey.
"Chelsey Silver, Please Call Home" starts promisingly, the silvery Classic John, but gets a little too reliant on basic devices and reminds me that one reason he was trying new directions was diabetic nerve damage in fingers (ouch, ouch ouch just thinking about it)
Nevertheless, "City of Refuge III," with evocation of silver bells and chimes calling insistently over an earthly shuffle, is very fine, and the only one of these YouTubes I bothered to download.
Womblife has some kinda nice drone lullabys and doppler-shift x sealife imitations at times, but most of it's rubbish; I'd call it heavy new age, but not that heavy. "Juana" reverts to the more popular JF: crisp Spanishy morning sounds, cogent back and forth of a and b melodies, even underselling lyricism or at least fluidity, but another one that could use an edit: 12 minutes, jeez
The Mill Pond EP! Wasn't expecting much, but true avant garage, as Crocus Behemoth would put it, with vocal and other sweaty bristley Radio Shack Popular Mechanics bits and kits from Dad's abandoned workshop, returning via cyberTibet understages, more like whole underlives--- attention-grabbing/holding, viable moments and passages flashing by. Another scribble mentions " a good motif for soundtrack of Japanese folk-horror art film, or Roger Corman's remake, " and "Garbage" suggests more of the 50s UFO-huffing found on The Epiphany's "Out Puppet Selves," but also with traces of Hendrix emulating that kind of soundtrack,and suspense as the saucer reverb inches toward liftoff/spinoff. Some tracks may use elements of each other, and for the climax, Fahey seems to be chanting while eating his way through his guitar----which reminds me of Andy Beta's testimony, one of the very best of its kind and flavor:
http://www.villagevoice.com/music/looking-for-blind-joe-death-6400465

(Later I remembered to tell him about delta-slider.)

dow, Tuesday, 26 April 2016 22:29 (one year ago) Permalink

great posts & 'Faheytronica' is a fine coinage

The Singing Bridge of Memphis Tennessee definitely has a straight sample from Quill Blues - https://youtu.be/kTdIMR9bGpM - & I think it's my favourite of these efforts, alongside A Raga Called Pat, though the guitar is still obviously the star of the latter

The Epiphany of Glenn Jones is probably the strangest Fahey album, it really is all over the place & I don't love most of it but Fahey's voice/monologue/dialectic on the last two tracks is just incredible to me, love the live recordings when his introductions become circuitous and oblique for the same reason & the trio recording where he reads from the liner notes to the first album, his voice has got that same heft

ogmor, Wednesday, 27 April 2016 00:45 (one year ago) Permalink

Great stuff, dow. Very insightful. "Faheytronica" (great description, by the way) has always kind of been a challenge to me. Hard to really grasp onto the stuff and, truthfully, it often just strikes me as an interruption — get back to the actual music, John! I've really struggled with Requia —an album I really want to love— for this reason. I don't even care for it when William Tyler does his homages to the style. The only "recent" (read: post-70's) Fahey I've ventured into is Red Cross, so I don't have much of an idea of what he was up to in later years.

Austin, Wednesday, 27 April 2016 03:44 (one year ago) Permalink

one year passes...

starting to think "God, Time, and Causality" is his best work- some truly ripping takes of older classic material fused with newer medleys and epics

global tetrahedron, Wednesday, 17 May 2017 20:41 (four months ago) Permalink

wrote and deleted a load of gushing bc I've written enough rubbish about fahey on ilx but yes, it's definitely up there

ogmor, Wednesday, 17 May 2017 22:41 (four months ago) Permalink

awww i love your gushing, some of my favorite Posts on here

global tetrahedron, Saturday, 20 May 2017 17:05 (four months ago) Permalink

did you ever read this, ogmor? some of the best writing on him i've seen.

"The long standing difficulty in understanding Fahey’s musical proximity draws from the way he ordered meaning."

https://blogthehum.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/the-unaccompanied-guitar-soli-raga-and-beyond-part-one-john-fahey/

global tetrahedron, Saturday, 20 May 2017 17:06 (four months ago) Permalink

it is rare to find meaty pieces of writing on Fahey that look at the composition of his pieces, writers often seem to be dazzled by his status & mythology, but I love good appreciations and analysis about the music itself. this guy seems to be offering a sort of General Theory of Fahey in that paragraph you quoted from, which is an endeavour that's familiar to me and pleasingly ambitious. It was a little unclear and I was starting to write about where I disagreed with it when I started to think about what he was getting at.

"The long standing difficulty in understanding Fahey’s musical proximity draws from the way he ordered meaning."

Fahey's musical proximity = who to think of him in the company of & how that might affect our understanding. This guy wants to compare Fahey to composers, suggesting that Fahey succeeds where many before have failed in trying to disrupt (even inverse) or change the 'primary musical context' or 'dominant form' through undermining "the way the components of a piece interact through degrees of importance" "in a way that unraveled the structural integrity of each element".

'Meaning' isn't fleshed out, but surely the meaning is or is in the ordering. What makes a given passage of notes more or less significant is how it is presented. I would say one thing that marks Fahey out from the composers listed is that he is very much a performer (crucially there is no clear distinction between performer/composer for fahey), and as a performer is able to have a much stronger effect on how things are presented. this seems analagous to how much Fahey loved intros, how he would play old songs with longer and longer intros over time, until the original song was just like a coda. like a drawn out alap in a raga, a lot of fahey's pieces are in no hurry to get where they're going, and he luxuriates in approaching from various oblique angles.

I would say one of the things Fahey had the most fun playing with was this sense of musical proximity (with... varying degrees of subtlety). Fahey appreciated some of the peculiar possibilities afforded by the sound world of the guitar. he understood the raw power of fingerstyle steel string playing from an acoustic perspective (& owned that to the extent that his name is the first ppl reach for to describe it), but he also had a beautiful understanding of the ways in which a lot of music was idiomatic to the guitar, and the flattening effect solo instrumental music has on different stylistic idioms. fahey can quote anyone and sound like himself. as a side note it occurs to me that this is close to the definition of freedom according to Hegel - being oneself in an other - & there is something supremely liberating and free about the way Fahey roamed stylistically, to an extent that no one else I've heard has really matched, and in strange/intuitive ways that could involve sudden sharp turns through time and space and genre. that is to say, he was a master of hodology. the clue is in the titles "stomping tonight on the pennsylvania/alabama border"; the inhabitants of the palace of king philip xiv of spain are rehoused in the invisible city of bladensburg. it's one thing to deploy a bit of skip james immediately after vaughan williams, another to play it so smoothly that it sounds fluid, and another again so that no one even notices that's what you're doing, it just sounds like you. the sound world of the guitar is the key: it elides geography and history, it can disguise, it's a third point through which emotional heft/meaning can be triangulated, it gives the distance necessary for irony, & Fahey appreciated the huge opportunities it opens up for a performer.

anyway I agree with him that death chants is one of the best records. I was listening to it while walking through spain earlier this month, and there is something about its slightly sun-faded classicism which suits the country (Fahey took such obvious care over his titles it seems odd ppl don't pay more attention to them). the original recordings have a comfortably-worn understated quality to the playing, and I think the album flows and hangs together the best of any of his early takoma efforts. I was listening to some summer day, just thinking about how amazing it would be to hear one of the current crop of guitarists release anything like that, but no one's even trying. 'post-fahey' is a misnomer, most of the stuff in that thread would be better thought of as post-rose who himself had a more complicated relationship to fahey than can be defined simply as 'post'. no one ever calls fahey 'post-james' or whatever, but he did at least understand how the music worked and was constructed and used that knowledge to do something else. I wld say Fahey has been most grievously misunderstood by guitarists, who have echoed him in strange superficial ways and kicked up a lot of dust that has clouded a sense of what he was up to.

I disagree about fare forward voyagers, and I think it's interesting to think why its so focused on with its grandiose eliot titles, dark, slightly foreboding cover signalling an indian influence, and Fahey doing his best to lend the pieces gravitas however he can. it's so hefty and serious compared to old fashioned love, which is the following album, and lacks all those signifiers and yet seems more convincing/honest to me in the cheerful way it moves through its hodge-podge of lighter styles (which is no less or more absurd than what he's up to on FFV) and then moves up into that suddenly painful, elevated mode with dry bones which seems like the most breathtaking ending to any fahey album to me (better than but somewhat similar to the way america ends with "the waltz that carried us away..."). mb FFV is the sort of trojan horse that guy is talking about; all this alluring exoticism, poetry and mysticism which fahey has used to get generations of black metal and experimental fans to listen to him doing a 23 minute cover of goodbye old paint.

there are some live versions of FFV in which Fahey's playing is more ferocious and immediate but in terms of his long extended medleys I definitely prefer god time & causality. fahey could be funereal in some ways but I think that's an example of how it's sometimes championed to the neglect of some of his best material.

ogmor, Monday, 22 May 2017 23:49 (four months ago) Permalink

ya i think that's why i like god, time, causality so much, it captures the 'imperial' era of fahey so well (playing carnegie hall, doing these huge epics, probably peak of his technical playing- recorded in 77 but not released until later) but also some of the juxtaposition and humor that's key to his art... also his medleys/etc are a big part of understanding him but no other studio efforts sans this one capture the breadth of his material. (also 'sandy on earth' has some parts that are unmatched elsewhere in his discography). ooooh and there's even some of his prankster side coming out a la 'Voice of the Turtle' in how he passed off these old recordings as new ones

have you ever listened to 'America' with the original tracklisting ogmor? it's basically the two epics bookended with the waltz and old country rock... i love the dvorak and bluesey stuff that's on the rerelease but when it's more contained like on the original it makes a lot more sense, probably bumps it up to my top 5, almost elevated by striking some of the blues elements. i'd also agree that death chants is one of his best. 'on the sunny side of the ocean' aside transmogrification always seemed a bit overrated, honestly. not sure why it's always exalted or the conventional 'go-to', i'd say it missed elements of what made him special

also otm on dry bones in the valley, amazing song and performance aside that one is interesting because there's actually quite a bit of processing on the guitar, lots of compression and effects, etc

global tetrahedron, Tuesday, 23 May 2017 00:26 (four months ago) Permalink

sorry, 'knoxville blues' on america:

"Voice of the Turtle" – 15:42
"The Waltz That Carried Us Away and Then a Mosquito Came and Ate Up My Sweetheart" – 5:49
"Mark 1:15" – 16:18
"Knoxville Blues" (Sam McGee) – 3:07

global tetrahedron, Tuesday, 23 May 2017 00:41 (four months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

it is rare to find meaty pieces of writing on Fahey that look at the composition of his pieces, writers often seem to be dazzled by his status & mythology, but I love good appreciations and analysis about the music itself. this guy seems to be offering a sort of General Theory of Fahey in that paragraph you quoted from, which is an endeavour that's familiar to me and pleasingly ambitious. It was a little unclear and I was starting to write about where I disagreed with it when I started to think about what he was getting at.

"The long standing difficulty in understanding Fahey’s musical proximity draws from the way he ordered meaning."

Fahey's musical proximity = who to think of him in the company of & how that might affect our understanding. This guy wants to compare Fahey to composers, suggesting that Fahey succeeds where many before have failed in trying to disrupt (even inverse) or change the 'primary musical context' or 'dominant form' through undermining "the way the components of a piece interact through degrees of importance" "in a way that unraveled the structural integrity of each element".

'Meaning' isn't fleshed out, but surely the meaning /is/ or /is in/ the ordering. What makes a given passage of notes more or less significant is how it is presented. I would say one thing that marks Fahey out from the composers listed is that he is very much a performer (crucially there is no clear distinction between performer/composer for fahey), and as a performer is able to have a much stronger effect on how things are presented. this seems analagous to how much Fahey loved intros, how he would play old songs with longer and longer intros over time, until the original song was just like a coda. like a drawn out alap in a raga, a lot of fahey's pieces are in no hurry to get where they're going, and he luxuriates in approaching from various oblique angles.

I would say one of the things Fahey had the most fun playing with was this sense of musical proximity (with... varying degrees of subtlety). Fahey appreciated some of the peculiar possibilities afforded by the sound world of the guitar. he understood the raw power of fingerstyle steel string playing from an acoustic perspective (& owned that to the extent that his name is the first ppl reach for to describe it), but he also had a beautiful understanding of the ways in which a lot of music was idiomatic to the guitar, and the flattening effect solo instrumental music has on different stylistic idioms. fahey can quote anyone and sound like himself. as a side note it occurs to me that this is close to the definition of freedom according to Hegel - being oneself in an other - & there is something supremely liberating and free about the way Fahey roamed stylistically, to an extent that no one else I've heard has really matched, and in strange/intuitive ways that could involve sudden sharp turns through time and space and genre. that is to say, he was a master of hodology. the clue is in the titles "stomping tonight on the pennsylvania/alabama border"; the inhabitants of the palace of king philip xiv of spain are rehoused in the invisible city of bladensburg. it's one thing to deploy a bit of skip james immediately after vaughan williams, another to play it so smoothly that it sounds fluid, and another again so that no one even notices that's what you're doing, it just sounds like you. the sound world of the guitar is the key: it elides geography and history, it can disguise, it's a third point through which emotional heft/meaning can be triangulated, it gives the distance necessary for irony, & Fahey appreciated the huge opportunities it opens up for a performer.

anyway I agree with him that death chants is one of the best records. I was listening to it while walking through spain earlier this month, and there is something about its slightly sun-faded classicism which suits the country (Fahey took such obvious care over his titles it seems odd ppl don't pay more attention to them). the original recordings have a comfortably-worn understated quality to the playing, and I think the album flows and hangs together the best of any of his early takoma efforts. I was listening to some summer day, just thinking about how amazing it would be to hear one of the current crop of guitarists release anything like that, but no one's even trying. 'post-fahey' is a misnomer, most of the stuff in that thread would be better thought of as post-rose who himself had a more complicated relationship to fahey than can be defined simply as 'post'. no one ever calls fahey 'post-james' or whatever, but he did at least understand how the music worked and was constructed and used that knowledge to do something else. I wld say Fahey has been most grievously misunderstood by guitarists, who have echoed him in strange superficial ways and kicked up a lot of dust that has clouded a sense of what he was up to.

I disagree about fare forward voyagers, and I think it's interesting to think why its so focused on with its grandiose eliot titles, dark, slightly foreboding cover signalling an indian influence, and Fahey doing his best to lend the pieces gravitas however he can. it's so hefty and serious compared to old fashioned love, which is the following album, and lacks all those signifiers and yet seems more convincing/honest to me in the cheerful way it moves through its hodge-podge of lighter styles (which is no less or more absurd than what he's up to on FFV) and then moves up into that suddenly painful, elevated mode with dry bones which seems like the most breathtaking ending to any fahey album to me (better than but somewhat similar to the way america ends with "the waltz that carried us away..."). mb FFV is the sort of trojan horse that guy is talking about; all this alluring exoticism, poetry and mysticism which fahey has used to get generations of black metal and experimental fans to listen to him doing a 23 minute cover of goodbye old paint.

there are some live versions of FFV in which Fahey's playing is more ferocious and immediate but in terms of his long extended medleys I definitely prefer god time & causality. fahey could be funereal in some ways but I think that's an example of how it's sometimes championed to the neglect of some of his best material.


Outstanding post. Makes me wonder if there has ever been any writing on Fahey that analyzes the music and identifies which pieces are included in what. Feel like jazz guys get this kind of musicological treatment all the time – this solo quotes from this piece, this introduction is particularly long compared to the studio recording, etc. By contrast, the books I've read on Fahey to date are a bit of a slog.

Naive Teen Idol, Tuesday, 18 July 2017 02:44 (two months ago) Permalink

three weeks pass...

New footage of him, instant classic- that pic of him and his girlfriend holding the umbrella came from this. Hope the full thing comes out at some point

http://www.oxfordamerican.org/item/1281-memphis-blues-again

global tetrahedron, Friday, 11 August 2017 21:52 (one month ago) Permalink

Wow, nice!

tylerw, Friday, 11 August 2017 22:09 (one month ago) Permalink

so good

global tetrahedron, Friday, 11 August 2017 22:18 (one month ago) Permalink


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