John Fahey | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

John Fahey 

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In the 60s John Fahey was pegged as a folk revivalist who made make-out music for hippies; a decade later he was blamed for the insipid acoustic noodlings of the New Age. But after a lengthy absence imposed by health and personal problems, the guitarist has recently issued a series of discs that establish him the way he's always thought of himself: as an adventurous synthesist who draws on American folk traditions, European and Indian classical forms, and avant-garde methods. The title track of his 1995 comeback recording, City of Refuge (Tim/Kerr), has the same grand scope as the extended pieces he played on 1971's America (Takoma). The dense collages of detuned guitars, gamelans, and found sounds that appear on Womblife (Table of the Elements), which was recorded here by Jim O'Rourke, and The Epiphany of Glenn Jones (Thirsty Ear), a collaboration with the rock band Cul de Sac, make hallucinatory juxtapositions of sound effects, turntable manipulations, and fingerpicked guitar that recall his 1967 Requia (Vanguard). And his next CD, due later this summer from Table of the Elements, revisits the same gospel, blues, and bluegrass roots that informed his very first album, Blind Joe Death. But Fahey's current work is no nostalgia trip; he now attacks his instrument more jaggedly, with fewer notes, purposely fucking with the seamless flow that characterized his earlier material. And for the first time on the new record Fahey plays an electric guitar, veering from gently picked meditations to spacey excursions. While reports indicate that this set will probably be half acoustic and half electric, with Fahey anything can happen. Saturday, 8 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. Bill Meyer

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Bettina Herzner.

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