My first introduction to the genius of John Fahey came by way of Leo Kottke, and in 1977 I bought my first (but by no means my last)John Fahey album--THE BEST OF JOHN FAHEY. Now, twenty-seven years later Takoma releases a second volume, 15 tracks and nearly eighty minutes of music from the artist who spawned such guitarists as Michael Hedges, Will Ackerman, the aforementioned Leo Kottke, and Henry Kaiser (who wrote the liner notes in the accompanying 16-page booklet).
While Fahey himself deplored being categorized as a folk artist or (heaven forbid!) a new age artist, his influences reaches deep and wide across the musical landscape of both genres. In fact, in his later interviews in the Nineties, Fahey denounced most of his earlier work on Takoma. He preferred to think of himself as an alternative artist, and it's hard to argue with that label. Fahey was an original. [Who else would release his first album with side 2 attributed to Blind Joe Death?] No one played like him before or since.
Before Fahey passed away a couple years ago, Fantasy Records bought out Takoma Records and began to re-release his back catalog. What makes this second volume of his best recordings (as selected by Henry Kaiser) special is that some of these are being heard for the first time. Three tracks are taken from an aborted Shanachie release (with the working title AZALEA CITY MEMORIES (AND DREAMS OF PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY). Two of the three tracks ("Twilight on Prince George's Avenue" and "Sligo Mud") will be familiar to longtime fans as re-recordings of tracks from DEATH CHANTS, BREAKDOWNS AND MILITARY WALTZES, but under different titles ("John Henry Variations" and Stomping Tonight on the Pennsylvania/Alabama Border" respectively). The third previously unissued track is the stately "Tuff."
There is a fourth track that will be unfamiliar to even most die-hard fans, the 13-minute "Fahey Sampler," which was originally issued in 1967 on the Takoma Records sampler, THE CONTEMPORARY GUITAR. This song includes sections from a variety of Fahey originals that had not yet been fully completed. In the liner notes, Fahey is quoted as saying that he would frequently begin any public performance with this song.
Fahey once used the phrase "American primitive guitar" to describe his playing, but that description shortchanges Fahey's music. On the surface his playing may appear primitive, but closer listening reveals a complexity, intensity and warmth to his playing that few other guitarists can match. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED