John Fahey

Friends of Fahey Tribute

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Friends of Fahey Tribute Review

by Rick Anderson

The album may have an awkward title, but the music it contains is both touching and generally quite graceful. It's an appropriate juxtaposition, since the album celebrates the life and music of guitarist John Fahey, who was himself the same kind of walking contradiction: a notoriously difficult personality with a rare musical gift that expressed itself in guitar compositions and arrangements that drew on the blues, folk, bluegrass, various world music cultures, and Native American influences as well. You'd expect a tribute album like this to consist of interpretations of Fahey compositions performed by admiring colleagues, but in fact it's something quite different: it consists mainly of compositions written in Fahey's honor (sometimes, though not always, in a style that explicitly evokes his own playing) and performed by admirers both famous (pianist George Winston, Canadian guitarist Terry Robb, guitar duo Stefan Grossman and John Renbourn) and obscure. Two of the album's most lovely and affecting tracks are by a Vietnamese guitarist who goes only by the name Tinh, and who was mentored by Fahey early in his career. Fellow Oregonian John Doan contributes a gorgeous adaptation of Fahey's setting of the hymn "In Christ There Is No East or West," and slide guitarist Mark Lemhouse plays an original tune called "How White's Restaurant Destroyed My Life." Winston contributes a piano arrangement of "Steamboat Gwine 'Round de Bend" at the top of the program and then a version of the same tune on harmonica at the end, and Paul Geremia gives a brilliant interpretation of an old Charley Patton song (Patton was the subject of Fahey's thesis in college). This is a worthy tribute to an unjustly neglected giant of American music.

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