John Fahey

Red Cross

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Red Cross is the last consciously recorded 'new' John Fahey record. Intended for release in 2001 but met with delays following his ill health (and eventual death), Red Cross bookends an important discography, to say the least. In a manner perhaps typical of Fahey, this collection of self-produced pieces ends his career on a note both simple and probing. Ultimately, though, the prevailing tone is one of peaceful resolution and it is this feeling above all others that lends this session its haunting beauty. For the first time in years, we hear Fahey, if not without, then at least de-emphasizing the experimental, and at times downright menacing leanings, displayed on recordings such as Womblife and City of Refuge; favoring, instead, a more personal and reflective approach. Make no mistake, there are still a handful of effects and avant-garde dissonances on this recording but even these are used sparingly. This time, instead of being an end in and of themselves, these passages augment some of the most warm and vulnerable playing we've heard out of Fahey in a very long time. This is the sound of a man who, at the time of these recordings anyway, was only recently coming to grips with periods of his career he had all but disowned. Especially poignant is the cyclical "Charley Bradley's Ten Sixty-Six Blues," a tune which should remind listeners of moments as far back as "Sligo River Blues" from his 1963 album. On this piece we hear a refreshed and revitalized Fahey and little in the way of the clumsiness of which he has been accused in recent years. It is a piece rooted both in the traditions of American folk form and, interestingly, his own history. His most 'traditional' moment in some time now, this is the kind of tune listeners have become accustomed to hearing only on reissues and expensive LPs, and it stands out as perhaps this set's highlight. Otherwise, the standards "Summertime" and "I Remember" are handled in a similar, albeit deliberately paced, fashion while his own "Ananaias" is reminiscent of the style heard on albums such as 1971's America. "Untitled With Rain," on the other hand, is an informal seven-minute drone featuring two guitar tracks, organ, and an ambient room mic. This piece, though less aggressive, is especially reminiscent of the experiments heard on Womblife, while "Red Cross, Disciple of Christ Today," the album's second cut, sounds rather like Neil Young's score to the Jim Jarmusch film, Dead Man. All said, this probably isn't the place to begin investigating Fahey's immense body of work, but listeners unfamiliar with his more recent leanings will get an abbreviated taste of them here. A highly recommended, confusing, yet ultimately fitting end to a brilliant career.

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