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

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