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Monday, 02 September 2013 00:00

Good music drives 'In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey'

Good music drives 'In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey' www.johnfaheyfilm.com
Written by Diane Carson
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A delightful trip down memory lane, "In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey" loosely chronicles Fahey's career, with the added joy of listening to his music. The Who's Pete Townshend begins with a definitive observation, saying Fahey "created a new language, modally speaking, harmonically speaking, and if that's not an iconoclast, I don't know what is."

Director James Cullingham's documentary goes on to prove the accuracy of that statement, tracing Fahey's musical roots from his playing the clarinet in high school to the origins of Blind Joe Death, from his fascination with Delta blues artists to slide techniques and finger picking his acoustic steel string guitar. Never playing it safe, Fahey forged his eclectic style, sampling before people used that term, always evolving, integrating what and whom he loved: Charles Ives, Rod Stewart, New Orleans jazz, American 20s and 30s musical roots, and found sound.

At one point Fahey stopped playing, not wanting to repeat himself, saying he "doesn't have a career, doesn't want a career, never had a career." In fact, impacted by his father's pedophilia, Fahey admits to compensating with drugs and booze. "The Saga of John Fahey" honors Fahey's life with gorgeous footage of what John considered sacred: woods and streams, oak trees and turtles, especially his beloved turtles. Terrific animation adds humor, with archival footage of Fahey and interviews with Townshend, Chris Funk of The Decemberists, Dean Blackwell, Dr. Demento (Barry Hansen) and many others.

The Fahey documentary is preceded by Steve Okazaki's "Approximately Nels Cline," a 27 minute sampling of Cline's improvisational, avant-garde music, informed by comments from Cline, among other musicians. The St. Louis premiere of "In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey," preceded by "Approximately Nels Cline" is at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 13th through Sunday, September 15th. For more information, you may call 314-968-7487 or on the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.
 

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