Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

New News – John Fahey

Rare material from John Fahey is set to be exhumed on the upcoming box set ‘John Fahey: Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You (The Fonotone Years 1958-1965)’.

Very much a neglected figure, John Fahey is extremely important to the evolution of American music. An important figure in the blues and folk revival, he helped rediscover performers long since thought lost to music.

His own recordings were an extraordinary mixture of technical virtuosity and emotional depth.

Sadly passing away in 2001, some rare elements of the guitarist’s back catalogue have now been

Releasing his debut album ‘Blind Joe Death’ in 1959, the guitarist seemed to arrive fully formed.

However he did make earlier recordings, laying down instrumental tracks for the Fonotone label.

Issuing in tiny quantities, the songs were pressed onto 78RPM discs. Unusual even for the time, the Fonotone label handled a series of John Fahey tracks between 1958 and 1965.

It is this period which forms the spine of the new box set (via Tiny Mixtapes). ‘John Fahey: Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You (The Fonotone Years 1958-1965)’ promises countless rare material, including some cuts which have never been released on any format.

Dust-To-Digital are to handle the release, which will contain a total of five CDs. Joe Bussard controlled the Fonotone label, and his archives have proved to be an invaluable addition to the Fahey discography.

Containing 115 tracks, the upcoming box set is edited by fellow guitarist – and Fahey collaborator – Glenn Jones, with the full approval of the late musician’s estate.

Alongside a host of musical rarities the upcoming box set also includes an 88-page book with essays and analysis, reproductions of those Fonotone labels and rare photographs donated by Jane C. Hayes — Fahey’s mother.

For more on the project click HERE.

June 30, 2011 Posted by | Blues, Folk, New News, New Releases, Video | | 1 Comment

Blast From The Past – John Fahey

John Fahey (February 28, 1939 – February 22, 2001) was an American finger style guitarist and composer who pioneered the steel-string acoustic guitar as a solo instrument.

His style has been greatly influential and has been described as the foundation of American Primitivism, a term borrowed from painting and referring mainly to the self-taught nature of the music and its minimalist style.

Fahey borrowed from the folk and blues traditions in American roots music, having compiled many forgotten early recordings in these genres. He would later incorporate classical, Portuguese, Brazilian, and Indian music into his signature style.

Fahey wrote a largely apocryphal autobiography and was known for his coarseness, aloof demeanor, and dry humour. He spent many of his latter years in poverty and poor health, but also enjoyed a minor career resurgence with a turn towards the more explicitly avant-garde. He died in 2001 due to complications from heart surgery.

In 2003, he was ranked 35th in the Rolling Stone “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”

During his early days of recording he would sometimes insist on being known as “Blind Thomas” which was an early sign of his habit of inventing “blues personas”, later when he made some money he would be a champion for lost blues singers.

Blind Joe Death was his 1959 debut album, however, ultimately there ended up three different versions of the album.

The original self-released edition (above) ran to fewer than 100 copies and as such  is obviously extremely rare.

It was one of the first albums recorded and produced by an independent artist being as it was released on Takoma Records, Fahey’s own creation. It was not marketed and made no impression on the American record-buying public.

The album had a first re-release it was however not a re-pressing of the original release as Fahey had in 1963 decided to to re-record much of the material, as he felt he had become a much better player.

This second pressing claims that “On Doing an Evil Deed Blues”, “In Christ There Is No East or West”, “The Transcendental Waterfall”, “Desperate Man Blues”, and “Uncloudy Day” are 1964 rerecordings and the rest (“St. Louis Blues”, “Poor Boy Long Ways from Home”, “John Henry”, “Sun Gonna Shine in My Back Door Someday Blues”, and “Sligo River Blues”) are the original 1959 versions. “Uncloudy Day” was actually the same recording, as was “St. Louis Blues” in an edited version.

“St Louis Blues” – John Fahey

The 1959 album contained a version of Blind Blake’s “West Coast Blues”, which (despite being rerecorded in 1964) was not included on the album. To fill the gap, the new version of “Transcendental Waterfall” was extended to over 10 minutes long, a glimpse of things to come.

By 1967 Fahey had released a number of albums and was very successful thus it was decided that his first two albums be released in stereo; they were both rerecorded, resulting in a third version of Blind Joe Death (as above), with a new, shorter version of “The Transcendental Waterfall” and a new song, “I’m Gonna Do All I Can for My Lord”.

The 1967 version received five stars in the second edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide, however, it should be noted that the 1967 versions of Blind Joe Death and Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes were actually recorded in mono, and briefly released on mono LP. Later in 1967, these recordings were edited to create a stereo effect and released on stereo LP with new artwork.

The 1996 Fantasy/Takoma CD release, The Legend of Blind Joe Death, contains the 1964 and 1967 versions of the album, with a previously unreleased 1964 recording of “West Coast Blues”, however, this CD does not include the latest ‘shorter’ 1967 recording of “The Transcendental Waterfall”, as mentioned above.

“Poor Boy Long Way From Home” – John Fahey

For years Fahey and Takoma continued to treat the imaginary guitarist Blind Joe Death as a real person, including booklets with their LPs containing biographical information about him including the “fact” that he had a guitar made from a baby’s coffin and that he had taught Fahey to play.

Fahey sometimes incorporated the myth of Blind Joe into his performances, wearing dark glasses and being led by the arm onto the stage.

Blind Joe had after all appeared again in Fahey’s 1965 release “The Transfiguration Of Blind Joe Death”.

Again it was only recognised for it’s brilliance following later re-issues, it is interesting to note that the distinctive cover of The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death is briefly focused on in a shot of a record store in Stanley Kubrick‘s film A Clockwork Orange. The jacket design and drawing are by David Omar White.

After its reissue in 1997, “The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death” received highly laudatory reviews with often “On the Sunny Side of the Ocean” being identified as the “undeniable highlight of the album”.

“On The Sunny Side Of The Ocean” – John Fahey

To buy the music of John Fahey click HERE

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Blues, Folk, Old Music | | 1 Comment

Nic Jones

nic jones

Nic Jones until recently had never really crossed my radar.

Folk music was and to a degree still is a genre of music that I tend to dip my toe into rather than dive in.

It has so many sub-genre be it geographical or otherwise, however a great deal of the music I do listen to on a regular basis has it’s foundations in the world of “folk” where the songwriter, like the blues, is that great writer “Traditional”.

The music of Nic Jones sits nicely beside my admiration for Davy Graham, John Fahey and Bert Jansch as he is recognised both as folkie and as an inspirational guitar player.

He is perhaps best known for his 1980 album “Penguin Eggs” from which this is taken

“Canadee – I-O” – Nic Jones

penguin eggs

Nic’s guitar style was unique in its day and has often been imitated since. He played with a plastic thumb pick but not his fingernails. Instead he opted to grasp and pluck the strings of the guitar which led to the slapping down onto the fingerboard with no small force. The off-beat, percussive ‘ping’ sound which became his signature on the later albums is produced by a technique known as frailing, used by banjo players. The middle fingertip of the plucking hand is held behind the base of the thumb and then quickly flicked out and back in, striking the D-string with the main part of the nail.

He was also frequent user of open tunings, particularly in C and G.

His early musical interests included acts like Ray Charles and The Shadows. He first learned to play guitar while at school. His interest in folk music was aroused by some old school friends who had formed into a folk band called the Halliard. When the members of the Halliard decided to turn professional, one of them left to pursue a different career and Nic was invited to take his place. Whilst playing with the Halliard, Nic learned how to play the fiddle, and also how to research and arrange traditional material.

The Halliard split up in 1968 as the members decided to pursue individual interests. For Nic, after a period at home with his family, this meant forging a career as a solo artist. At first finding work as a session musician, his solo career eventually took off and he recorded five solo albums, plus contributions to another album with the folk act Bandoggs.

In February 1982, he was involved in a serious car accident while driving home after performing at Glossop Folk Club. He broke a large number of bones and suffered some brain damage and was hospitalised for eight months. Although he survived, he still suffers co-ordination problems and feels he is unable to play the guitar well enough to perform and record. He can no longer play the fiddle at all.

Nic now lives in Devon and continues to play guitar and write songs for his own pleasure. He has also developed a passion for chess. His wife, Julia, set up the record label Mollie Music which has issued three albums of re-mastered live recordings from Nic’s early career.

To buy the music of Nic Jones click HERE

October 5, 2009 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Folk, Old Music | , , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: