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Monday, 17 March 2014

John Fahey - 'The Yellow Princess' (Vanguard)

Fahey goes 'serious' in the liner notes here, explaining that he's tired of writing humorous record notes, for 'such publicity stunts are no longer necessary'. Then it transforms into a beautiful description of the title piece, written for a boat, and with a description of one's place in the cosmos, Whitman-motivated, that is as stirring and majestic to read as the composition is to hear. 'The Yellow Princess' is Fahey strumming and picking frantically in standard tuning, creating a dazzling array of  guitar sounds. It's a momentum picked up a few tracks later in 'Lion', an open-G eulogy to his housecat that moves through moods, appropriately given it's inspiration. The Yellow Princess overall shows Fahey in the extremes - slow, mournful picking and jaunty whimsicality both share a loveseat. The longest piece is 'Irish Setter', another one for a pet, but that's only 7 minutes, making this very digestible overall. Fahey's accompanied by a band on two tracks, but it's minimal - 'Dance of the Inhabitants of the Invisible city of Bladensburg' is actually one of the most spare pieces on the disc, starting with a few cautious steps before building to a swirling tornado, with an additional guitar adding a shimmery, bendy feel to a lengthy buildup. Fahey leans slightly more towards severity, and away from beauty, with modal progressions and minor key explorations ('Irish Setter', 'Charles A. Lee: In Memoriam'). But when he drives straight-ahead with simplistic wonder (as on the sublime 'View'), it provides the complete yin-yang of the Fahey spirit, and you start to see what his reputation is based upon.

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