Following the recent death of guitar legend John Fahey, fellow guitarist
Mitch Greenhill posed the question: "How will we explain John Fahey to people who never met him?"
How, indeed. The godfather of modern solo acoustic guitar continuously
re-invented himself. This evening of acoustic guitar music, performed by
some of those directly touched by Fahey, may help fill in some of the blanks.
John died in February at the age of 61 in a Salem, Oregon hospital following
complications of a heart bypass operation. At the time of his passing, he
had just completed what will be the last of some 40 albums.
In the early 1960ís, Fahey breathed new life into the self-satisfied folk music
scene with instrumental music that at the same time celebrated and convoluted
what was then known as country blues.
His joyous yet somehow spooky music drew from the techniques of such pioneers
as Skip James, Bukka White and Charlie Patton (three blues guitarists whom he
helped rescue from obscurity).
But Fahey was way beyond "technique". He rarely stayed with any one style
long enough to be branded as a practitioner, leaving us only with his own
description of his music: American Primitive. Through the years he
delved deeply into Eastern, Ragtime, Classical, Brazilian, Spirituals, Jazz,
Dissonance, and a handful of other traditions.
What emerged from his hands was always cereberal and unmistakably Fahey.
John founded Takoma Records (and later, Revenant Records) to nurture other
artists that shared his spirit of adventure and his quest for artistic
excellence. Several of those guitarists will be appearing during this very
special evening. The Takoma catalog was subsequently purchased by Fantasy
Jazz Records, and this show will be recorded by Fantasy for an upcoming
The guitarists gathered for this special tribute night are participating out
of love and devotion. They are coming in specifically to honor a man who
changed each of their lives.
Originally from Massachusetts, Los Angeles based Mitch Greenhill
Fantasy recording artist who has also produced albums for Doc and Merle
Watson, Rosalee Sorrels, John Renbourne and others.
Coming in from Nashville, Michael Gulezian
recorded for Takoma Records
and later founded his own label, Timbreline Records. A percussive
fingerpicker extraordinaire, Michael started as something of a student of Johnís before
breaking his own ground. The late Michael Hedges referred to Gulezian as
"a kindred spirit".
Eclectic Bay Area guitarist Henry Kaiser
has recorded extensively as a
soloist and with such groups as French/Frith/Kaiser/Thompson
. A Fahey devotee who calls himself more of an improvisor than
composer, Henry offers a faithfully twisted interpretation of Johnís vision.
Bay Area guitarist Phil Kellogg,
an adventurous fingerpicker who
opened for John in the 1980ís, organized this event with the generous
assistance of Johnís surviving friends and family. Phil has recently returned to performing following a nearly 2 year hiatus
due to a playing-related hand injury. As an author, Kellogg
recently released a chronicle of Johnís performance phases called "Recollections
of a Die-hard Fan".
From Minnesota, Peter Lang
was a close friend and colleague of Johnís.
Peterís deft fingerpicking was captured on a landmark Takoma release that
spotlighted himself, Fahey, and another of Johnís discoveries, guitarist
Leo Kottke. This will mark one of Peterís first public performances in
From Seattle comes Rick Ruskin,
a Takoma recording artist who also
appeared on some of Johnís own albums as a duet partner. GUITAR PLAYER
described Ruskin as "so brilliant at times that he seems to transcend normal
approaches to the guitar."
a close friend and student of Faheyís, will join us
from Chicago. Charles is a true "Fahey scholar" who will perform pieces
popularized by John (who was often beguiled by Schmidtís uncanny ability to
play them "better than him").
John Fahey's legendary Recording King guitar
will be used
by some of the performers this evening. This guitar was used for the recordings
"America", "Fare Forward Voyagers", "After the Ball", and "Of Rivers and Religions".
This special contribution to the evening will be provided by Fred Sheppard, the craftsman who put it
will join us all in spirit.
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Acoustic Guitar magazine
Rita and Orin Stadden (private donors)