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Americana Masters: John Fahey, Vol. 3

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Album Review

John Fahey's second Christmas album may not immediately pack the artistic wallop that his reputation lays upon, but there is enough deviation and skillful interpretation within these two sides of vinyl to solidify any claims to greatness. If you were able to judge the album by side two alone, this would be up there with America or Fare Forward Voyagers. Richard Ruskin helps out on most of the tracks. Ruskin, an excellent player taught by Reverend Gary Davis who also recorded a few albums for Takoma, tackles these traditional songs with aplomb. But this is definitely Fahey's show. Taken up with mostly standards, Fahey digs into hymns and sacred material much like he would on any other album; it just so happens that he happens to do this with the holiday tracks that all parties secular and non have been privy to their whole lives ("Oh Christmas Tree," "White Christmas," et al.). This familiarity may have provided Fahey with his most popular recordings, but as with most of his material, there is something uneasy underneath the surface. This is best exemplified by "Christmas Fantasy," a track which takes up the entire second side and gives plenty of reason to search out this record. In fact, Fahey himself claimed this as one of his favorite recordings of himself. Here, he dips into his characteristic, methodical plucking that flows from uneven to dizzying before lapsing into more melodic segments. Crashing and discordant at one moment, gentle and flowing the next. It's not your typical Christmas fantasy and probably provided some nightmarish, surreal qualities to anyone hoping to inject some typical musical yuletide cheer into their holiday.

Biography

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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