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On Air

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Album Review

John Fahey's On Air was recorded for Radio Bremen in Germany in 1978. The material is very similar to the Live in Tasmania release from 1980. As such, On Air explodes the myth that Fahey got drunk on an airplane on his way to Tasmania and decided to record a live album there and wrote the material precisely for that venture. No matter. Henry Kaiser — who produced the Takoma re-release of Live in Tasmania as well — has carefully and painstakingly assembled these tapes to offer a concert that is edgier, more adventurous, and altogether more fluid. The tunes reflect a concentration and free flow of ideas that capture the guitarist in top form, and he's clearly enjoying his audience. This set is longer, a full concert with fine sound. From old faves like "In Christ There Is No East or West" through to his stunning read of Gary Davis' "Candy Man" and the utterly magical "Steamboat Gwine 'Round de Bend," to the haunting "Beverly" and "Requiem for John Hurt," that closes the show, Fahey spins out a musical universe that straddles musical worlds, dips into them, and carries the detritus somewhere else to make something entirely new yet rooted in time immemorial. This document is a welcome addition to the Fahey shelf and a must for fans.


Born: 28 February 1939 in Takoma Park, MD

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of acoustic music's true innovators and eccentrics, John Fahey was a crucial figure in expanding the boundaries of the acoustic guitar over the last few decades. His music was so eclectic that it's arguable whether he should be defined as a "folk" artist. In a career that saw him issue several dozen albums, he drew from blues, Native American music, Indian ragas, experimental dissonance, and pop. His good friend Dr. Demento has noted that Fahey "was the first to demonstrate that the finger-picking...
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