Saturday, November 9, 2013

Blind Joe Death

When I cleaned up my office last week, I found a bunch of pre-iTunes albums in a pile on the floor, which I had probably intended to rip at one point and never got to...really good stuff, it is finally in my hard drive (and also refiled upstairs in the "permanent collection"). The best of the three is John Fahey's The Legend of Blind Joe Death. It's his first album, a double recorded in 1959, when folk revival mostly centered on field recordings of elderly blues players. Fahey, then, recorded Blind Joe Death incognito in the person of an imaginary old-time blues-man. One side of the album was credited to "Blind Joe Death", the other styled as Fahey's covers of this hypothetical musician. Many of the songs are traditional -- there's a wonderful cover of "in Christ There Is No East or West", a couple of versions of "St. Louis Blues" etc. -- but Fahey hints at the whole open-ended folk-raga-blues of the 1960s and 1970s in his epic "The Transcendental Waterfall." None of the latter day pickers -- from Jack Rose to Glenn Jones to Daniel Bachman and William Tyler-- would be playing the way they do (or did in Rose's case) without this record.

Anyway, good to have it back. Apparently there's a Fahey documentary called In Search of Blind Joe Death that will be airing next month on the BBC. Looks pretty interesting.

Here's that "In Christ There Is No East or West"...just radiantly simple and beautiful, don't you think?

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