Fahey, John: The New Possibility: John Fahey's Guitar Soli Christmas Album LP
John Fahey's Christmas music has brought comfort and joy to our celebrations for a quarter century. This release marks the welcome return of Fahey's original 1968 guitar interpretations of "Joy To The World," "The First Noel," and more favorite songs and carols, combined with songs from a second volume first released in 1975.
The title of the earlier album, The New Possibility comes from theologian Paul Tillich, but it also reminds us what a breakthrough this now-familiar (and widely imitated) music was when it first appeared. "No one had ever done that before - a solo guitar playing familiar Christmas carols."
Fahey recalled in 1993, "I first got the idea when I was 18, 19 years old. I was in this record warehouse in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and there was this four-foot pile of 'White Christmas' by Bing Crosby. The owner told me that record had sold out every Christmas for 20 years, and that's when I got the idea."
Fahey's music in general is based on what was then a radical notion - that the instrumental techniques of pre-World War II blues and country guitar could be adapted to an infinite variety of idioms. Starting with his 1959 debut album, Fahey's original compositions and new arrangements of old favorites reflected his absorption of classical and popular music from all ages, folk music from the corners of the earth, film soundtracks of every kind, and the hymns and anthems of Episcopal church he was raised in, along with the early blues and country music that remained at the core of his playing.
His early recordings include several Episcopalian hymns played "straight" with their Bach-like harmonies intact, but with the forceful attack and virile tone of a Charley Patton or a Sam McGee (to name a couple of Fahey's favorite pre-WWII traditional guitarists). That was the approach Fahey chose for much of his Christmas music. Other carols are delightfully transformed into blueslike slide-guitar pieces, while the extended "fantasy" tracks bring out Fahey's more improvisational side.
The New Possibility was an immediate success, and its appeal kept growing year after year, making it by far the biggest seller of Fahey's long recording career. "I have no idea how many it sold, none whatsoever," said Fahey." "Nobody kept any records. It probably sold a million." And no wonder. People talked a lot about the "generation gap" in the late 1960s, but all that meant nothing to music like this. Matter of fact, it still has a way of bringing people together, just like Christmas itself.