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Album Review

Pairing Fahey with what appears to be a Dixieland revival band, After the Ball, Fahey's second and last Reprise release, stands as one of the stranger recordings of his enigmatic career. With Fahey performing solo and in duet with mandolin, banjo, and uke player Allen Reuse, or with an entire "orchestra" backing him, the album suffers from too many mood swings. Individually, however, the tunes are strong and the arrangements very accessible and light. This may have to do with the fact that it was Fahey's first step (along with his 1972 release, Of Rivers and Religion) into the mainstream. Notably, the major label album release would help gather momentum for crossover solo acoustic steel string instrumentalists such as Alex De Grassi and William Ackerman in years to come. Although the "orchestra" featured on the album tends to squash out Fahey entirely, his solo guitar is featured on nearly every tune. The several solo and duet pieces include originals like the very pretty "Beverly," the eventual concert staple "Hawaiian Two Step," the obscure Dixieland piece "New Orleans Shuffle," and Reverend Gary Davis' "Candy Man." As is the norm with Fahey, the album is like a very serious joke. The album cover and even the selected tunes and titles are cuttingly funny, but the songs themselves are played warmly and delivered with care, heartfelt arrangements, and a slightly satirical sentimentality. As with previous humorous stunts such as Fahey's 1968 album The Voice of the Turtle and his early releases under the pseudonym of Blind Joe Death, After the Ball shows listeners another side of the world Fahey habituated. The title track, done up in pure 1930s fashion, proves that — along with his intuitive guitar playing, unhinged sense of timing, and strange humor — Fahey's nostalgia lay beyond the Delta blues players he admired and stretched into all musical forms.

After the Ball, John Fahey & His Orchestra
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