It’s now five years since John Fahey died at the age of 61. REVENGE OF BLIND JOE DEATH - THE JOHN FAHEY TRIBUTE ALBUM is an overdue accolade to a guitarist who revolutionised the instrument by exploring its roots in early 20th Century American music. Unlike many other inferior tribute albums that clog up the CD market, all of the musicians involved in this project are up to the challenge of paying a genuine homage to a musical icon of Fahey’s stature. Many of them are performers who made their own début recordings for Fahey’s Takoma label: George Winston, Peter Lang and Michael Gulezian, among them. Others come from the ranks of musical aggregations like Canned Heat, Country Joe & The Fish and Beausoleil, all bands that have reinforced and slightly skewed traditional music to their own vision in much the same way as have John Fahey’s remarkable guitar explorations. What is most noticeable in all of the performances here is how each of them is alive with John’s spirit. Each musician’s conception is totally his own but John Fahey’s legacy seems to inhabit every tune (and this is not simply because the majority are either composed by or have a close association with him).
The programming is excellent too. Dale Miller’s precise but spirited fingerpicking opens the disc with Sunflower River Blues to be followed by George Winston’s fantastic solo harmonica vehicle Sally Goodin. The grossly under-rated Charlie Schmidt is an acoustic guitar revelation on Desperate Man Blues: ditto for Nick Schillace on Red Pony. Canned Fish brings together Fito de la Parra and Larry Taylor from Canned Heat with The Fish’s Barry Melton plus Phil Kellogg, Henry Kaiser and Mark Hummel. The resulting Dance Of The Inhabitants Of The Palace Of King Phillip X1V of Spain brings into close proximity Melton’s acid-rock electric guitar lines and Hummel’s heated blues harmonica. Thinking Of John Fahey is a reflective slide guitar instrumental by Country Joe McDonald. Peter Lang’s In Christ There Is No East Or West is a breakneck version of one of John’s finest melodic tunes. All of the 20 performances are of the same high standard, are beautifully recorded and the package comes with an exemplary booklet stuffed with sleevenotes, photographs and track details. Arguably, this is the best tribute album since “Avalon Blues”, Vanguard’s testimonial to the enduring legacy of Mississippi John Hurt.