Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas With John Fahey

AN underrated West Coast guitarist, the great and mysterious John Fahey, is best known for gloomy, weird, angular records like "Blind Joe Death" and "The Voice of the Turtle" that begin in Charley Patton territory and in some ways anticipate the anti-folk movement.

But for me, Fahey and his "American primitivist" style is most important as part of my Christmas experience, and has been for decades now. Around this time of year, I develop this weirdly atavistic connection -- the kind I would surely find corny in others -- to my Anglo-Irish roots, and I play a lot of dark Celtic folk music, old and new. But there's nothing I play as often, or soak up as deeply, as Fahey's solo acoustic Christmas record, "The New Possibility," which I know from my parents.

In some ways -- I'm glad to say -- it's as gloomy, weird and angular as his other work. Fahey (who died in '01 -- here is his posthumous website) was an odd cat.

Here is the album's first song, "Joy To the World."

Here he is teaching "auld lang syne" behind dark glasses.

And here, a subdued reading by a young Fahey of the Anglican hymn, "In Christ There is no East or West."

Anyway, alongside Johnny Cash's gospels recordings and Bach's sublime and lonely cello suites, this is stuff is almost enough to make me love Protestantism.

Update for fall 2013: Fantasy has reissued The New Possibility on vinyl, and put out a new CD compilation of his four holiday albums called Christmas Guitar Soli with John Fahey. They're on their way to me, look forward to hearing. 


Rodak said...

I was directed here by Robert A. George, whose blog I've been visiting since its inception.
I can see that we share quite a few tastes--indie rock, jazz, P.K. Dick, T. Pynchon, among others.
It's late here, but I look forward to reading some of your posts in depth tomorrow. Any friend of RAG's, you know...

Scott Timberg said...

Welcome to the Misread City! Yes Robert was a dj at the first job I ever had where I got free beer!