John Fahey occupies a unique place in the history of modern guitar music. He was able to merge country blues with influences like Bela Bartok, Charles Ives, and Indian ragas and somehow make it all work. Later he experimented with tape manipulation, samples, and even played the electric guitar. Apart from his own music, we have to thank Fahey for rediscovering blues musicians Skip James and Bukka White in the 60s and bringing them back into the recording studio. And for starting the careers of Robbie Basho, Leo Kottke, and George Winston on his Takoma label.
While Fahey earned a lot of respect for his music and influenced many other musicians, from Folk and New Age to Sonic Youth and Cul de Sac, he never really fit into any particular genre. And if that didn't already make him an outsider, he dissed the whole folk scene (Quote: "I remember when you'd go into a folk store, there'd always be a big sign up, 'Should Pete Seeger Go To Jail?' I'd always say, 'Absolutely. Because he sings such lousy music.'"), hated hippies, and despised New Age. When he was rediscovered by the indie crowd in the mid-90s, he collaborated with Cul de Sac and Jim O'Rourke and dismissed some of his own earlier work. To quote his old-time friend and collaborator Dr. Demento: "John did not really know the meaning of the word 'tact.' Or at least if he did, it didn't apply to him. He said what he thought, drunk or sober. Even if it hurt his own career and even if he knew it might, he still said what he felt."
His comeback in the mid-90s after a long fight with Epstein-Barr syndrome and heavy drinking was certainly helped by the release of an excellent 2-CD compilation "Return of the Repressed" by Rhino and two articles about Fahey by Byron Coley in Spin Magazine, all in 1994. At the time Fahey was living in a motel room in Salem, Oregon, where he subsequently recorded the Mill Pond Double EP and the full-length album "City of Refuge". The Mill Pond album was released in a very limited vinyl-only edition on Little Brother Records, and it is long out of print. So I offer an MP3 rip of my copy, unfortunately with a bit of surface noise, most notably on the first track. It is amazing lo-fi experimental stuff with some great Fahey vocals.
Disk 1: Ghosts | Garbage
Disk 2: You Can't Cool Off In The Millpond, You Can Only Die | The Mill Pond Drowns Hope
There is an interview and fascinating articles about Fahey by Byron Coley, Dr. Demento, George Winston, and Dean Blackwood over at Perfect Sound Forever. And if you haven't read it already, check out the liner notes by Glenn Jones for the Cul de Sac/Fahey album "The Epiphany of Glenn Jones". Highly recommended!