“I’m not the greatest guitarist, but I am the deepest.” ~John Fahey
That quote may be apocryphal, but it goes a long way toward explaining the late Fahey’s enduring appeal. His highly technical yet profoundly soulful finger-picking guitar style has earned him a cultish devotion that at this point is threatening to spill over into the mainstream.
Vanguard’s reissue of The Yellow Princess coincides with the release of the label’s Fahey tribute album, I Am the Resurrection (which featured the likes of M. Ward and Sufjan Stevens). Originally recorded in 1968, The Yellow Princess has a timeless feel. Fahey largely eschewed the trappings of rock ‘n’ roll, choosing to approximate the history of American folk and blues instead. The result feels like an expertly chosen deejay set filtered through an uncompromising eccentric’s steel guitar.
On “Lion,” Fahey incorporates “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” into an otherwise lightning-fast finger-picked jam. “Commemorative Transfiguration and Communion at Magruder Park” references “Shortnin’ Bread” and the German hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King.” Other highlights include the head-nodding “March! For Martin Luther King” and the eerie sound collage of “The Singing Bridge of Memphis, Tennessee”.
The more time passes, the more Fahey gets name-dropped as a true genius of twentieth century American music. It’s not hype. For those looking to make a dent into his daunting discography, The Yellow Princess is a great place to start.