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John Fahey - Red Cross

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 8 / 3 / 2003

John Fahey - Red Cross
Label: Revenant
Format: CD


Final posthumous album from much respected cult guitar genius , John Fahey

Sadly John Fahey, the finger-picking-style guitar legend, passed away in February 2001. This is the album that Fahey completed just a few months before his death and regrettably, because of that, it is probably going to attract more attention than it would have done if the man whose guitar playing style influenced a generation of musicians were still alive. Fahey was hailed as a genius in some circles yet remains relatively unknown to many. Never able to reach out to a wider audience than those ‘in the know’ (and maybe he had no real passion to do so) Fahey is for now, at least, a true cult figure. One day, however, his vast back catalogue (he released over 30 albums for a number of different labels which is probably going to make future comprehensive compilations pretty nigh on impossible) will be reappraised and maybe then future generations will be able to hear the beauty in his unique guitar playing and the sound he created. Fahey’s life story, cut short at 61 years, makes for compelling reading. Obviously we don’t have the space here to go into the man’s life, the poverty, the drugs,or his generosity , but it is an interesting story and there are many good internet sites dealing with his highs and lows. Go check them out. The booklet that comes with ‘Red Cross’ contains a short essay by Glenn Jones and is a very good insight into Fahey’s life. What should also be mentioned is that Fahey established two record labels in his lifetime. His first, Takoma Records, which also released albums by Leo Kotte, has recently been purchased by Fantasy who are re-releasing all Fahey’s Takoma albums on CD. Fahey’s second label is Revenant, the label that ‘Red Cross’ appears on. Revenant has also been praised for releasing several editions of 'Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music' which Fahey provided linear notes for. If you are familiar with Fahey’s past work then you’ll know what to expect here. If you are unfamiliar with the man’s work then it is not an easy task trying to explain what to expect. The album has seven instrumentals listed on the cover. There are, in fact, eight tracks in total. (An uncredited final track brings the album to a chilling end.) These are atmospheric, blues laced pieces steeped in traditional and roots music with Fahey’s close-miked guitar creating a sound that is very much his own. Fahey plays electric guitar on this collection as well as the acoustic finger-picking he originally became known for. The final track listed, ‘Untitled With Rain’, is given an even more haunted sound with the addition of organ and chimes by Tim Knight. Apart from the Fahey originals (new songs, not remakes) there are covers of Gershwin's‘Summertime’ and Irving Berlin’s ‘Remember’ and both work extremely well. ‘Remember’ leads off the album and is a good introduction to Fahey’s later work and to the album itself. It’s more immediately accessible then some of his earlier work and, because this album will attract more interest from those who have only become aware of Fahey through press reports of his death and are curious of his talents, it’s a good starting point. The six minute version of ‘Summertime’ ( a song I would not have chosen to hear another version of before hearing Fahey’s version) actually benefits greatly from Fahey’s unique style of guitar playing. If you are one of Fahey’s followers this album will already be in your collection and rarely far from the CD player. For those curious about the man’s work, it’s an excellent starting point. If you feel that you couldn’t possibly take another version of ‘Summertime’ then start with track 6, ‘Charley Bradley’s Ten-Sixty- Six Blues’ and then be prepared for a long journey searching out his earlier records.

Track Listing:-
1 Remember
2 Red Cross, Disciple Of Christ Today
3 Summertime
4 Ananais
5 Motherless Child
6 Charley Bradley's Ten-sixty-six Blues
7 Untitled With Rain
8 Untitled - (Hidden Track)

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