Posts Tagged ‘John Fahey’

Sorry for the sparse posting of late. Like many of you, I was enjoying a holiday out of town (going to see an old friend in D.C. for Thanksgiving) and I’ve becoming a bit wary of telling people, perhaps burglars, when I leave the house by blogging about my travels. I have also tried to get a handle on a new writing regime. As much as I love my readers, blogging every day as I used to, even when it’s just stupid, puerile jokes and top 10 lists, has been sapping the strength I should be putting into my fiction. Furthermore, I was also going through something akin to post-coital depression after the election last month. I felt like I had summed up a lot of my feelings on America’s misguided self-mutilation in electing Tea Party members, and I felt I’d succinctly explained my economic point of view. I was a bit spent and didn’t feel the need to hash it all out again.

I’m currently working on a 2011 economic outlook for the magazine I write for.  The news there is pretty dismal–our unemployment problem could continue for years, not because Republicans or Democrats can do anything about it, but because we have years to pay off our debts, both personal and institutional. Americans in saving mode don’t goose GDP forward, and with stagnant growth, unemployment continues. What might help is more government fiscal stimulus. But that’s now become politically impossible because of the national mood and anti-government backlash. In other words, America–your misery is largely your own fault. So make sure and go to the mirror tonight and ask yourself, “Why am I personally hurting the economy? Am I a bad person?” If you feel comforted watching non-financial expert Ralph Reed on CNN telling you what’s really happening, then that’s a perfect place to start looking for your problem.

But I didn’t come here to bitch. I came here to share more music (perhaps you’d prefer it if I bitched). I was digging through some old music files last night and came up with something I recorded in 2007 that I never shared–a guitar piece inspired by John Fahey with lyrics inspired by Huck Finn (which I re-read that year). I had planned on flushing this song down the toilet, but was surprised at how much I still liked it, long and dour as it is. It finds me still trying to negotiate a strange path of Americana, threading a route from folk artists like Fahey to noise artists like LaMonte Young and Sonic Youth. The result seemed to be perfect for a melancholy lyric I’d written about death and the frontier.

So for better or worse, I’m sharing it with you now. It’s called “Where You Dream Tonight.” As always, all the work belongs to yours truly, as if somebody else would claim it.

Where You Dream Tonight
copyright 2007, Eric R. Rasmussen

Where you dream tonight

Is where your heart belongs

Steamer through the mist

Ferry hits the logs

Cannon raise the dead

Stuck two fathoms down

Halo round her head

Waterlogged and drowned

Everything you know

Everything you see

Paddle boats and hacks

None of this is real

Looking through the trees

Tarred and feathered thieves

Is that you and me

Longing to be free?

Carnival in town

Fireworks display

Midgets monkey men

Wonders of the day

Bring your children round

To the river town

Halo round their heads

Thank God that you’re not dead

Image: prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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One of the things you might not know about ER Salo Deguierre is that he’s not just interested in ripping off Sonic Youth and the Velvet Underground all the time. No, ol’ Salo has a soft side, too. In fact, he quite loves folk music.

It was 1992 when I first saw a brilliant movie I highly recommend called Dogfight (starring the late, great River Phoenix in one of his best performances, working alongside the equally phenomenal Lili Taylor). As the credits rolled at the end for this devastating tale of lost innocence in the 1960s, I heard for the first time the dulcet tones of a maestro guitarist named John Fahey and my life has never been the same. I spent the next 17 years not only trying (and failing) to play the way he does but also to reconcile how an instrumental guitarist with nobody backing him could sound like a symphony. I wondered for a long time, after listening closely, if his symphonic sound had any relation to the type dreamed up by Sonic Youth troubadours Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo. I was pleasantly surprised later to find that my intuition of a musical connection was not superficial; Sonic Youth acknowledged at some point that they had indeed used a lot of John Fahey’s alternative tuning approaches to create their own totally original sound. Their debt to him turned out to be so great that they even played shows with him in his waning years (one of which I got to see on my 27th birthday, the best present ever).

John Fahey never sang (he didn’t need to), but until I come up with a guitar sound as fulfilling as his, I have to unfortunately do some croaking on my own material, thinking that if I combine some halfway decent picking skills with a halfway decent vocal, I’ll have something better than both. My results in this pursuit have mostly been a mishmash in the past, but in the last few months I’ve come up with something I don’t mind sharing.

I wrote this song about 10 or 11 years ago but left it unrecorded until this year. It’s about pain, poverty, class resentment. American history, basically. Just click to play.

Kansas 1921
By Eric Rasmussen
Copyright 1999

Go inside the house and get our best wooden chair
Before he comes up our porch
And takes off his bowler hat
And sits down and tells us tales of distant Washington
We’ll feed him corn and watch his face

Seems so long
Since dad’s been dead
But how happy he’d be
To have known a president
On a whistle-stop campaign
In this brave new year of 1921
Just to see our land and give us blessing

Oh ho, high wind, high wall
Won’t you take my hand and pull me down
There’ll be warm spring wind comin’ round

Punch another hole inside your old leather belt
You’re as thin as a bean
And your pants are fallin’ down
And you might run into rich folk in town
Don’t you ever stop to think of who you are?

Try to think that you was raised better than
You was raised
Tie that dog up in the wood
Kick him if he ain’t been good
Lick your fingers, push your hair behind your ears
Don’t smile when they look you in the eye

Oh ho, high wind, high wall
Won’t you take my hand and pull me down
There’ll be warm spring wind
Comin’ round

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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