At the closeout sale of the once massive Tower Records empire on Broadway in Manhattan—it occupied a block and half, then dwindled to a block, then to one store on the corner of Broadway and e. 4th, I think—I picked through the picked over bluegrass collection on sale for 40% off. There wasn’t much—no actual Fahey albums, for instance—but I found this. There were actually two Fahey tributes, one made up mainly of entries from more established stars, several of them country, and this hipster version, with entries from artists such as Sufjan Stevens (of course; but it’s actually the weakest track, the guitar diluted by Stevens’ too-clever choir) Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth (who uses voice effectively; it took me two listens to notice that what I had taken for feedback that sounded like the voice of a walrus recorded in the distance on his cover of “The Singing Bridge of Memphis, Tennessee” are actually human voices, recorded, apparently, on the Brooklyn Bridge), and Calexico, whom I’d been wanting to hear for a long time. They use voice, too – maybe murmur is a better word -- and it’s ok, because they’ve made “Dance of Death” their song--it’s a lot more southwestern, but just as autistically personal as the Fahey original.
I discovered Fahey in college when I read a Spin article by a reporter who’d tracked him down in a SRO and gotten his guitar out of hock for him. This led to modest Fahey revival and a thin living for Fahey. My then-girlfriend and I saw him perform at a club in Northampton, the Iron Horse, not long before he died. It was kind of painful--just sort of dull. His blood was probably half prozac by then.
A greatest hits album of his (there were no hits, of course) became part of my writing soundtrack, instrumental to the writing of the unpublished cancer book and for years afterward. It’s since been retired. I like this album a lot, though. I hope it can carry me through the writing of the last chapter of the current book, if not further.