In 1997 a move to a smaller house led to me reducing my collection of vinyl records and "Railroad I" was a casualty. I told myself that it would be available on CD soon but I regretted my decision when it didn't appear. Ten years later and I have the chance to listen once again to this superb collection of virtuoso guitar pieces with a railroad theme.
Some of the tunes here are familiar but most are originals and all receive the Fahey treatment par excellence. He uses his instrument to great effect in creating a sound picture of various railroad scenes - the trains, towns, scenery, people, and even a cat. The tempo and atmosphere range from fast and rhythmic blues to slow, tranquil and contemplative melodies, while the titles are typically bizarre Faheyisms. The booklet includes the original original LP artwork, while Fahey's track notes are also reproduced in readable size with four pages of new commentary notes.
I was not disappointed by this recording as the quality of the sound is terrific and shows what a masterful musician this man was. It is great driving music; stick it in your car CD player and turn the volume up - it will help the miles go by faster. Unreservedly recommended.
John Fahey is peerless, and not merely because he mined the musical seam of finger-plucked acoustic guitar so single-mindedly. He's peerless also because he's the Godfather of Americana. He knew his American history too, and as a result he knew that in the days before music was everywhere isolated rural communities made their own music out of necessity, or got a Victrola. This, coupled with the sharpest ear for the aural landscape, ensures he was one of the most telling musicians ever to bless us.
His evocation of the train whistle on `Frisco Leaving Birmingham' is thus nothing if not informed. His appreciation of forms explains too why `Summer Cat By My Door' is so picturesque in the way his string manipulations evoke feline movement.
The railroad of the title's there again on `Afternoon Espee Through Salem' Indeed, although there are plenty of mostly long gone names who can do it just as well, no-one's ever bettered Fahey in the ability to musically capture the possibilities and promises of travel. He leaves the listener in no doubt that that train's headed somewhere good.
So there's no excuse for not buying this one immediately, if not sooner. Once you've done this you can stick it on, don the headphones, close the eyes and let the pictures start forming in the mind.
Just don't lose sight of the fact that you're only using an upgraded Victrola.