Various Artists

I Am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey

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The late John Fahey was to fingerpickers (or simply "pickers") what Jimmy Smith was to soul-jazz/hard bop organ -- Fahey, in other words, wrote the book on fingerpicking, an earthy, rootsy, instrumental style of folk-rock acoustic guitar playing. And just as Smith influenced countless organists, the seminal Fahey was a musical guru for Leo Kottke, Robbie Basho, Stefan Grossman, Duck Baker, Peter Lang, Michael Gulezian, and many other acoustic guitar-playing instrumentalists who surfaced in the '60s and '70s. Given his impact on folk-rock, Fahey is well deserving of a tribute -- especially from fingerpickers. But the interesting thing about this Fahey tribute compilation, I Am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey, is the fact that it isn't dominated by fingerpickers and Fahey disciples. The songs are familiar -- at least if one is heavily into Fahey's work -- but what the artists do to them are not. Hearing Peter Case (formerly of the Plimsouls) on "When the Catfish Is in Bloom," Lee Ranaldo (of Sonic Youth fame) on "The Singing Bridge of Memphis, Brooklyn Bridge Version: The Coelcanth," or the Fruit Bats on "Death of the Clayton Peacock" is a lot like hearing rock en español artists saluting Mexican norteño legends los Tigres del Norte on the Fonovisa compilation El Mas Grande Homenaje a los Tigres del Norte -- it isn't the first thing you would expect, but it generally works. And the fact that most of these artists interpret Fahey's material instead of offering carbon copies of the original versions keeps the intrigue factor high. Some purists will inevitably insist that a Fahey tribute should adhere to an all-pickers-all-the-time policy, but clearly, this compilation wasn't assembled with purists in mind. And while the disc is a bit uneven, I Am the Resurrection is full of pleasant surprises and is a memorable demonstration of the fact that Fahey's compositions can be useful well beyond the fingerpicker field.

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