Local Wire

Various Artists

John Fahey was an original, a guitarist with an instantly recognizable style, a conglomeration of ragtime, country, blues, Indian classical music, and electronica. With his usual self-effacing sense of humor, he called his music "American primitive," but it was a sophisticated kind of acoustic psychedelia that no one has ever been able to duplicate. So the problems facing anyone who wants to pay tribute to Fahey are many. His music is so singular you can't cover him outright or outdo him by being consciously eccentric. Pelt, Devendra Banhart, Sufjan Stevens, Peter Case, Calexico and others give fairly straightforward renditions of his compositions, some of them dropping in the dissonant effects Fahey favored late in his career, but why bother? The originals are strange enough. Those who play with the formula are more in keeping with Fahey's adventurous spirit. The Fruit Bats reimagine "Death of the Clayton Peacock" as a folk/pop love song, while Howe Gelb translates Fahey's skewed version of "My Grandfather's Clock" to the piano with good results. If you're not familiar with Fahey, this sampler may whet your appetite, but there's no substitute for the real thing.
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J. Poet