John Fahey: resurrected once again. This 1967 soundboard recording, discovered among lost readings by beatnik poets Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, is the oldest recorded solo concert from the acoustic guitar innovator. The tape displays Fahey fresh off recording his Vanguard debut, Requia. He opens with “St. Louis Blues,” every note glowing in the syrupy-slowness of this W.C. Handy standard. When Fahey segues straight into a breakneck “Great San Bernardino Birthday Party,” you know it’s on. “Wine & Roses” gathers force in its ominous wanderings, the closing harmonics as haunting as Skip James’s falsetto. For a notoriously moody man, Fahey plays personable; he jokes about his convoluted song names, elicits laughs in false starts and stops.
No year proved more prolific for Fahey than 1967. He performed few shows outside California, instead recording material that would appear on five subsequent albums. “When the Catfish Is in Bloom” was also still in flux, and Fahey plays a version here. Listen as he experiments with mid-song silence, a silence he’d extend on Requia. Fahey fans will appreciate this snapshot of an artist in transition, halfway between the Delta blues of his Blind Joe Death persona and the musique concrète that would define the next phase in his career. Call it a crossroads—Fahey would have. | e weinstein