It's John Fahey Season, My Friends
Go for a very long hike with your headphones on
The first time I ever heard John Fahey was when I was 20 and went hiking with a couple of friends way up near the end of Wisconsin. Everybody but me had taken acid. The idea of tripping around this particular group of people didn’t seem like the wisest move to me, so I let them make fun of me for a few minutes until one said that since I was the sober one, I could carry the boombox. One of them had the idea that a little chill music playing while they walked would be nice, so I said fine and pressed play on the cassette he had loaded in there when he said it was time. It was all guitar music. It sounded somewhere between classical and old blues, with this warmth to it that I’d never heard before. I asked my friend just as the acid started kicking in what it was, and when he said it was John Fahey, my mind flashed to reading a Spin profile on him a few years earlier that I recalled started with him taking the writer (Byron Coley) to get sausage-on-a-stick. I decided I’d track down anything by him I could once I got done babysitting my idiot friends.
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And, thankfully, there’s a lot of Fahey. Dozens of albums full of what some music journalist once dubbed “American primitive,” a term that links Fahey to musicians who came before and after him, like Charley Patton, Elizabeth Cotten, Sandy Bully, and Jack Rose. This is the time of the year when I listen to all of that stuff, usually when I’m taking walks. I like to joke and call it “Barn coatcore,” since Fahey and other musicians like him tend to be what I listen to almost exclusively when I’m able to wear a jacket that’s just warm enough, but never too hot.
And since I feel like we could all use a little time outside and away from our computers these days, especially while the weather still isn’t too bad, I put together a few hours of Fahey vibes in case you want to slap on a pair of hiking boots for a long trek or just sit on a park bench and slowly drink a hot coffee.