Escaping Fahey

An unauthorized blues fanatic explanation.
My Delta Blues Radio album (later edited down to an EP) was some of the most conventional blues inspired music I recorded.

I worked on this music for a long time. I was mainly interested in the purity of early Delta blues recordings. But I didn't want it to sound like American composer guitarist John Fahey. I think it doesn't, and yet it does. Thus, Delta Blues Radio became an aesthetic battleground.

I admittedly ended up at a different place than I intended. Delta Blues Radio was based on interpretations of the music of Charley Patton, Son House, and their circle. As well as imagining what the music of Henry Sloan might have sounded like. But Fahey was the first to study this music as a guitar composer. I mean, Fahey wrote his UCLA Master's Thesis on "Charley Patton."

The project turned out to be a 3 way battle between trying to source from Patton's circle without copying them, while attempting to connect my rock band background to the earliest known Delta blues, and developing a separate sound from Fahey.

John Fahey's music sounds simple. It also looks simple. Until you try to play it. You are eventually forced to discover simple and easy are not the same thing. I purposely never learned a Fahey song. Not one. Every guitarist I knew of who learned a Fahey song became trapped inside Fahey's brilliant acoustic guitar aesthetics. Considering how obscure this form of music is, there are a lot of excellent players who are considered to be "Fahey-style" acoustic guitarists.

Fahey was a strange genius. But that's too much to go into here.

Back to early Delta blues.

Much of my motivation for Delta Blues Radio came from my viewpoints about acknowledging Delta blues as the foundation of most 20th century music. Blues sounds obvious, until we try to imagine music without it. There's something archetypical about it. Somehow, it mysteriously just works. As if it came through a deep mind radio.

Trying to study this was the initial goal. Obviously, the album did not end up as a literal study. Symphonic themes began to bleed through. Rock and roll bass parts emerged. It increasingly felt like I was trying to turn solo Delta blues into a full rock band.

But more to the point, since I wanted to establish my own sound, I considered Delta Blues Radio to be too well-established. I wanted to go further.

That's when I stopped studying early Delta blues and started working on deconstructing it. Tearing it apart. The idea being to push it as far as I dared. Or push it even further. And then later use whatever music ideas were worth pursuing. However, later or further never arrived. Just ever higher studio rent bills.

It all came apart when my project studio and Seattle apartment rents both doubled. And that was the end of the Acoustic Blues Lab studio.

This battle turned out to be more than OK.

If I had stayed with the Delta Blues direction, I think I was close enough to Fahey's sound to get vacuumed into that world. And that's certainly a fine place to be. But I increasingly felt trapped trying to live in someone else's world. Even if that someone else was a genius like Fahey.

I had to somehow escape this vortex.

I shifted from acoustic early Delta music back into electric guitars. Into solo experimental rock and ambient music.

A much bigger tent.

I had escaped Fahey.

Wow. That was a close one.


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