For his numerous studio recordings, particularly the solo acoustic guitar ones, the late John Fahey established an intimate rapport with the listener. Introspective, stylistically primitive yet exploratory, these solo guitar pieces possess an organic quality and a conversational tone that is almost confessional. It's hard not to think of them as 'live' performances because many of them were probably recorded in first or second takes
One would imagine little difference between these recordings and John Fahey in concert. However, as "Live In Tasmania" amply demonstrates, the replacement of a producer and/or engineer by an audience often elicited from the guitar legend a much more ebullient, extrovert style of playing. Quite simply, the audience changed the nature of the recording from dialogue to performance.
Recorded at Hobart University in 1980 when Fahey was touring Australia, this was touted as the first recording by an international artist to be made in Tasmania. The enthusiasm of the audience explains that cultural hunger and Fahey responds to their attention with a sheets-of-sound style guitar performance of, at times, astonishing attack.
I suspect the concert was recorded much in the order it runs on the album. The sprawling near-14 minute opening medley On the Sunny Side Of The Ocean / Tasmanian Two-Step / Tiger seems an attempt to attune to the hall, the audience and set a pace and mood for the event. Tasmanian Two-Step reworks Hawaiian Two-Step and Tiger draws on Lion (from "The Yellow Princess") and How Long (from "Dance Of Death"). Fahey's quips and banter with the audience on 'Fahey Establishes Rapport With The Tasmanians' is a verbal reminder of the wit and intelligence that informed his music.
As the groove develops, he remodels The Approaching Of The Disco Void and the Australian anthem Waltzing Matilda but the best moments come as the concert works towards its climax. From the Funeral Song For Mississippi John Hurt through Steamboat Gwine 'Round De Bend' and Indian-Pacific R.R. Blues (the latter a retitling of the haunting Beverley (originally one of the highlights of his Reprise album "After The Ball"), Fahey plays like a man possessed but also finds the passion and melodic poise that informed all his best work.
The CD booklet includes the original sleeve notes by tour promoter Peter Noble and additional liner notes by Jim O'Rourke, who worked together in the late 1990s on such albums as "Womblife (Table Of The Elements)".
By John Crosby