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Charlie Schmidt

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Steel-string guitarist Charlie Schmidt was not only a contemporary of the American primitive master John Fahey, but he so perfectly emulated his mentor that a batch of Schmidt's early recordings were once mistaken for the work of Fahey himself by his record label, critics, and collectors. Born and raised in Minnesota, Schmidt began playing guitar at age six, discovering Fahey -- the cantankerous six-string genius famed for such LPs as Blind Joe Death and Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes -- while in high school. He first met his hero in the late '70s, following a Fahey performance in Minneapolis. Almost every time Fahey played the Midwest during the decade to follow, Schmidt was somewhere backstage, and their friendship was cemented after a 1992 gig at Chicago's Abbey Pub, where Fahey invited his acolyte to work on a unique project. Fahey's then-label, Shanachie, wished for him to re-record a new version of the aforementioned Death Chants, but he had no interest in such a proposal -- instead, he asked Schmidt to cut the requested material for him, planning a prank in line with his earlier assertion that his Blind Joe Death character was in fact a real person. Schmidt completed the session as promised, but when Shanachie terminated Fahey's contract and Fantasy reissued the original Death Chants, the tapes were shelved. However, when Fahey died in 2001, Fantasy began raiding his archives, and in 2004 issued The Best of John Fahey, Vol. 2, crediting three unreleased tracks that were in fact the work of Schmidt to his mentor. By now, Schmidt was living in Skokie, IL, and teaching English as a second language. After sorting out the case of mistaken identity with Fahey's publisher, he finally issued his proper solo debut, the Fahey-inspired Xanthe Terra, on the Strange Attractors Audio House label in the summer of 2005. ~ Jason Ankeny

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