On this day, 10 years ago, a man died. A man that inspired countless musicians to pick up an acoustic guitar and play. Play like never before.
Of course his music didn’t die that day. John Fahey was a prolific artist and the casual/inquisitive fan can get his good stuff easily. A completist can get the rest without breaking the bank.
If anything, Fahey’s music was resurrected that day. There were the tribute concerts, tribute CD’s and some musicians even put down their current instruments to get back to the roots of their love. The acoustic guitar and…well that’s it, the player and the guitar working together to create, recreate and relive the genre invented, coined and eventually even shunned by John Fahey: American Primitive.
There are musicians far and wide crediting their inspiration to Fahey, early work as well as late. I marvel at the breadth of his influence. There’s no shortage of acoustic plunking out there that is readily relatable to his early work. But the music and musicians that have pushed the boundaries of their art to new limits, the ones that upon first listen seem to have nothing to do with Fahey amaze me. That he could spawn such distant cousins of composition is truly amazing.
That many of those cousins have been coming home over the years is further tribute to the cornerstone that Fahey set so many years ago. And why do these musicians look back? And why do the newbie’s want to play/sound just like Fahey? There are few musicians that invoke the desire to imitate. When they do, you know it’s special.
So this year, during Fahey Week there will be a fair amount of focus on playing like Fahey and a further discussion about why one would want to do such a thing.
This year I am assisted by, oh who am I kidding, my guest this year is doing all the heavy lifting to make this week a real Fahey Week to remember. How about a little instruction in the art of playing Fahey? Let’s try this on for size…
Check out the songs below and leave me a guess who you think it is. Tomorrow our esteemed guest will be revealed and he will be performing a major role in Fahey Week.
Here are a few notes on each piece
Open D modal Suite
This track is an improvisation of various themes Fahey used during his career. It's in Open D Modal tuning, which resembles open D tuning but with the third string tuned up a half-step. Recorded last week (Feb. 2011).
Some Summer Day
A Fahey "classical" piece, Some Summer Day follows a standard blues form. It's a masterpiece of musical economy and simple variation, where every note counts. This version is pretty close to the original, with a few unintended changes that seem to fit. Recorded summer 2010.
The Last Steam Engine Train
Simple, brilliant, hot. One of the first songs I taught myself, this one just never gets old. Recorded early 2011.