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Of Rivers and Religion

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Album Review

In the liner notes for this wonderful disc, sideman Chris Darrow comments, "I remember the first time I ever heard him, I thought they'd turned the record from 45 to 33 or something, 'cause I couldn't believe how slow he played." One of the (many) great beauties in Fahey's approach is just that: he takes his time and savors every last resonance he can wring from his guitar. This 1972 release was his first for a major label (originally on Reprise) after more than a decade of issuing work privately or on small imprints, and also the first instance of Fahey having access to a large ensemble of musicians, including a brass and string section. Still, the extra players don't come close to swamping the session; Fahey is very much in the foreground and a number of the pieces read, essentially, as solo performances. It opens with "Steamboat Gwine 'Round de Bend," as gorgeous an example of Fahey's slide guitar work as he ever recorded, languid, soulful, and profound. Similarly, his medley of "Deep River" and "Ol' Man River" is steeped in Delta humidity, lazily floating downstream. The tracks with the brass band raise the ghosts of Dixieland, while some of the string accompaniment may recall Van Morrison. In any event, Fahey, major label or not, is simply himself, leisurely rolling along, sharply perceptive in his observations and sumptuously gorgeous in his evocations. A fine effort and certainly something that belongs on the shelves of any fan of the late, very great guitarist.

Of Rivers and Religion, John Fahey & His Orchestra
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