03 November 2005

john fahey - "sunflower river blues" (from the returned of the repressed : the john fahey anthology, available for purchase here.)

in brief : music to die by.

some time ago, i believe i said i wanted this played at my funeral. "sunflower river blues" would go on before the service, the 1974 version specifically (it was also recorded in 1963 and 1967), while people were still arriving, paying their respects, and expressing condolence. it's pensive and ruminative and would soundtrack well the type of small talk and regretful murmuring that takes place at such moments.

i need to tread carefully, b/c i realize how easily i could fall into cliche and bad metaphors, comparing life to a river and such, which really has no role in why i would want this music played. no, i would request this merely b/c it strikes a right chord--i should've added "bad puns" to the above. it's fully resigned and emotionally spent, how one approaches a funeral, if they have any hope of surviving the death of the loved one.

oh, and i suppose the song is like a river, and then like life, in the way it picks up new parts, receiving contributions from different tributaries, and drops others, relinquishing so much to the sea. this being the 1974 version, it also slows down considerably near the end, as those blessed w/ longer lives do.

i wish i knew more about guitar playing so i could tell you what makes fahey so special. if i were to try to describe it, i guess i'd say that it sounds humble, fahey approaches the guitar w/ head bowed. he has obviously grown v. comfortable w/ the tune eleven years after penning it; like monk, he deconstructs and unravels, stripping the song to its essence, and then stripping it further. in this way, he peels back the layers, performing the work of remembrance, the life lived flashes before the assemblage's eyes.

in the end, it's about as lonesome and hopeful as a fella standing on the side of the road, his thumb out, and in his other hand, a cloth sack attached to a stick. and that's maybe as good as we can ask for.

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