Thursday, December 8, 2011

American Primitive Guitar

"American Primitive" was a term used by guitarist John Fahey to describe what kind of music he played on the acoustic guitar. Fahey was a master of the picking and slide styles that came out of traditional blues and folk, but in his hands, the music became very personal, more modern and sometimes bracingly weird. An awareness of classical music began to forge a particularly modern sound out his his traditional materials. He avoided folk revivalists and once described his piece Stomping Tonight on the Pennsylvania/Alabama Border: "The opening chords are from the last movement of Vaughan Williams' Sixth Symphony. It goes from there to a Skip James motif. Following that it moves to a Gregorian Chant, Dies Irae. It's the most scary one in the Episcopal Hymn books, it's all about the day of judgement. Then it returns to the Vaughan Williams chords, followed by a blues run of undertermined origin, then back to Skip James and so forth." Fahey's music remained challenging and fun even as it veered closer to the Avant-garde in later years. His influence can be heard in almost every fingerstyle guitarist from the last several decades (most notably Leo Kottke and Peter Lang) some of whom created their own successful versions of "American Primitive" music. One of popular music's less traveled, but most interesting side roads.

John Fahey - The transfiguration of Blind Joe Death

Leo Kottke - 6- and 12-String Guitar

Peter Lang - The Thing At The Nursery Room Window

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hawaii in December

Maybe it's our local beach and surf culture, but a lot of library visitors seem to like Hawaiian music. A new addition to our cd collection is a soundtrack that features some beautiful and traditional island sounds. The Descendants, a new film starring George Clooney and directed by Alexander Payne, is set in Hawaii and includes selections from the great Gabby Pahinui along with contributions from the Makaha Sons, Keola Beamer, Sol Hoopi, the Rev. Dennis Kamakahi and David Kamakahi. Largely acoustic, these pieces are in the folk tradition and feature guitars, ukuleles and vocals. Most have been recorded within the last twenty years although a couple are from the 70s and the Sol Hoopi track dates from the 1930s. Overall, a wonderful collection - great for fans of traditional Hawaiian sounds as well as those who want to hear the music for the first time.

Also available:

Hawaiian Steel Guitar Classics - Various Artists

Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters - Various Artists

Best Of - Alfred Apaka

Facing Future - Israel Kamakawiwopole

Steel Guitar Magic - Billy Hew Len

Hapa - Hapa

Gabby - Gabby Pahinui

From Hawaii With Love - Mauna Malahini Islanders

Hawaii: Music in its History (book) - Ruth L. Hausman