During a 40-year career, John Aloysius Fahey released nearly forty albums before dying of complications from heart surgery in 2001. Five years later Vanguard Records and Takoma Records both released tributes to this gifted fingerstyle guitarist. While I would recommend both, the nod goes to Takoma's REVENGE OF BLIND JOE DEATH.
Over the course of twenty tracks, each artist pays tribute to Fahey in his own way. Some lovingly recreate Fahey originals, like Dale Miller's note-perfect rendition of "Sunflower River Blues." Peter Lang, who also recorded for Takoma in the Seventies, does a wonderful version of "In Christ There Is No East or West." Terry Robb, who performed extensively with Fahey in the Eighties, likewise does an excellent job on "Joe Kirby Blues."
Still other artists composed their own music in tribute to Fahey, including Country Joe McDonald's "Thinking of John Fahey." [In the early Sixties McDonald and Fahey shared the same manager.] With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Stefan Grossman offers the bluesy "Assassination of John Fahey. [He explains in the liner notes that it was written in resposne to Fahey's song "The Assassination of Stephan(sic) Grossman" from 1975's OLD FASHIONED LOVE. In fact, Grossman says the two of them had even planned to do an "assassination" tour together--check out the photo of the two of them on p. 12-13!] Another original is the sprightly "The Alligator Walks Sideways on Sunday" by Alex de Grassi whose song title is more Fahey-esque than the music.
Perhaps the most unusual tribute is pianist George Winston's performance of the fiddle tune "Sally Goodin" on harmonica. [It should be noted that Winston's 1972 debut was released on Fahey's Takoma label.] In addition, Henry Kaiser and John Schott's slide guitar workout of the medley "Steamboat Gwine 'Round the Bend/How Green Was My Valley" lopes along until the 4:43 mark and then explodes into high gear with a two minute-plus electric guitar coda.
As to the final track, Blind Joe Death's "John Henry"; it's difficult to separate fact from fiction. Fahey throughout his career was a joker. His first album, BLIND JOE DEATH, puportedly was performed by obscure bluesman Blind Joe Death on one side and Fahey on the other, when in fact the entire album was Fahey. The line notes say "John Henry" is the B-side of an old Paramount 78. However, just like Takoma's release of of THE BEST OF JOHN FAHEY, VOL. 2" in 2004 had several "newly discovered tracks" that in fact were performed by one of Fahey's students Charlie Schmidt, I think Fahey is being allowed one last joke. [It should be noted that in "Rolling Stone" magazine's obituary, Barry Hansen was quoted as saying that Fahey was known to have occasionally dubbed obscure 78's onto his albums and credit them to his alias Blind Joe Death.]
The 16-page booklet is very informative, including an essay by Barry Hansen (aka Dr. Demento, a long time friend of Fahey's), photos, reminiscences, and track-by-track notes. All told, this is a satisfying tribute album. [Running Time - 72:02] HIGHLY RECOMMENDED