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John Fahey: Days Gone By: Volume 8 (Takoma)


To fans of outside music, Fahey - today - hardly needs any introduction. Yet, it might (still) be worthwhile to present my particular take...given that I actually “discovered” him via his connections to archaic blues, back in the early 80s...independently of the 90s underground. You know, back when original Takoma vinyl, although not particularly common, went at bargain basement prices...and he was basically forgotten...

Fahey’s crucial period, arguably, ran from the original “Blind Joe Death” to “The Yellow Princess”...w/every damn album a classic. Particular peaks include the first four - wherein his unique take on Charley Patton (and “hiart” arrangement) via Mississippi John Hurt gradually complexified, taking in some more experimental collage techniques along the way - reaching a genuinely psychedelic peak on 1966’s “The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party” - as well as the key roots/mythology moment of 1968’s “The Voice of the Turtle”...and this - probably his most masterful set - in 1967.

One thing people unfamiliar w/Fahey’s sources don’t seem to hear is the way his attack broadened over those years. He was always a hard plucker (no pick for him!) - certainly the hardest on acoustic guitar of his day - but, when you listen back to his earliest stuff, the patterning is clearly based upon Hurt, whereas, by “Days Gone By” he’s much more akin to a “hiart” - his term - take on his idol, the great Charley Patton. Tearingly physical strumming/picking dominates - albeit, interspersed w/achingly delicate interludes - while his aural collage work has, quite simply, never been better integrated.

To be sure, there are other peaks. Should you be enamoured of studio gloss, his pair for Vanguard in the late 60s - around his stylistic highpoint - will undoubtedly be the winners. On the other hand, if soloists get your goat, the - sadly under-rated - trilogy credited to “John Fahey & his Orchestra” in the 70s should be your first port of call, “Old Fashioned Love” being my favourite...

And yet, this one - perhaps uniquely - has touches of them all. “My Grandfather’s Clock” - a lovely 19th C. parlour tune - for example, is one of his earliest group pieces, whilst the title track combines a subtly weird production w/vocal encouragement, in a way that foreshadows “The Voice of the Turtle”.

Moreover...unlike any other, “Days Have Gone By” effortlessly shifts from the unadorned opening - via masterfully integrated reverb effects - and through bizarre collage additions - into a group interlude, then back to an unadorned, albeit beautifully spacial/time-stopping, close - a harmonic cover of Sibelius’ “Finlandia” (believe it or not). Now...should your ears be open, and yet unfamiliar w/Fahey’s unique mastery, I would suggest that this, indeed, is perhaps the very best place to start...opithalamium & all...




John Henry Calvinist