Thursday, June 10, 2010

John Fahey - The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death (1965)

If you play guitar and love all forms of it being played, then John Fahey is like a revelation. I've been playing for about 12 years now and no amount of practice or performance will ever get me anywhere near Fahey's playing (and I consider myself an above-average guitarist).

Fahey's story is as quintessential an American story as they come: born in 1939 to a nice family in Washington, DC; moving to a suburb after the war; falling in love with both the guitar and record collecting; starts his own record label (Takoma Records) with money he saved working at a gas station; graduates from college (degrees in philosophy & religion); moves to California to attend UC-Berkeley in 1963 (leaves after a year) and get's his master's degree at UCLA in folklore studies (his thesis was on the music of Charley Patton). He also traveled to Memphis to record blues legend Bukka White and put out an album of his in the meantime, and would eventually go on to release albums by other great guitarists like Leo Kottke, Robbie Basho and a then unknown George Winston. He'd later expand the label and sign some rock acts, like Canned Heat and The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Of course, since it's an American story the second act is the obligatory "where he loses it all" with a divorce, alcoholism, health problems and poverty; and of course the third act is one of redemption- working again with heavyweights in the experimental guitar scene like Jim O'Rourke, Derek Bailey, Sir Richard Bishop and pianist Cecil Taylor. Fahey died in 2002 from complications during a sextuple bypass open-heart surgery.

So enjoy an early album from the greatest folk-blues-primitive guitar legend of all-time...


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