No shortage of words have been written about guitarist John Fahey, often by collaborators and friends of his that are much more qualified than simply a fan like myself. However, I don't want to write a history lesson or dissertation on the guy, I've just felt compelled to write about my personal relationship with his music for quite some time now. Today being his birthday and having a couple hours to kill, there seems no time like the present. Bear with me as I attempt to form clear sentences that aren't completely self indulgent:
I don't know how I heard of Fahey's music, it just seemed to be there one day. Somewhere around 2005, a copy of Blind Joe Death magically surfaced in my apartment (NOT TRUE. I know I bought it at Looney Tunes records on Mass Ave. in Boston., but not sure what led me to grab it. No one had ever suggested it, had never even heard the name before, so we will stick with it having "magically surfaced").
It's a good thing too. As a lonely Bostonian with a music school hangover, I needed a "pick me up". I was in an unhappy relationship, drinking too much, and feeling uninspired. Yes, first world problems, I know. BUT...that doesn't mean I wasn't a sad little bastard all the same. While it's not lost on me that people don't necessarily associate Fahey records with the term "pick me up", allow me to elaborate...
By the end of "On Doing An Evil Deed Blues", I was hooked. For the first time, I felt like I was hearing something brand new, fundamentally simple and complicated at the same time. Lonesome and inviting, joyous and grave, ornately minimalist, beautifully dissonant, Fahey's guitar excursions felt like contradictions to me, like they were fighting within themselves. The playing on Blind Joe Death was just so fucking unique to my ears, I didn't know what to do with myself. I felt empowered...and confused.
It occurred to me, that after having played guitar for almost 15 years, and recently graduating from a college of music, I couldn't play an hour's worth of material with just me and my guitar. I had also seemingly lost some of my emotional attachment to most of the music I practiced and performed. Hearing "The Legend Of Blind Joe Death" was like N.W.A, Bob Marley, NIN, hardcore, Marc Ribot, Bob Dylan, and Bill Frisell happening all over again. My headspace was altered. I listened to everything I could over the next few years, and continuously revisit my favorites to this day.
I guess the only thing I'm trying to point out, is that after all this time listening to John Fahey records and having them hit me like a ton of bricks, it recently occurred to me that punk rock played an acoustic guitar. Being unapologetically himself, for better or worse, Fahey continuously nudges me to find whatever is inside and dig it up, gross or beautiful. His records helped me realize I should go with my gut, play what I want, and realize when it sounds like dog shit. And that's pretty cool, because there's strength in all that.
So y'all can have your Mardi Gras celebrations, I've got my Fahey records and a beer.