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Of Rivers and Religion

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Audio CD, September 11, 2001
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$64.34 $24.70

Editorial Reviews

In the liner notes for this wonderful disc, sideman Chris Darrow comments, "I remember the first time I ever heard him, I thought they'd turned the record from 45 to 33 or something, 'cause I couldn't believe how slow he played." One of the (many) great beauties in Fahey's approach is just that: he takes his time and savors every last resonance he can wring from his guitar. This 1972 release was his first for a major label (originally on Reprise) after more than a decade of issuing work privately or on small imprints, and also the first instance of Fahey having access to a large ensemble of musicians, including a brass and string section. Still, the extra players don't come close to swamping the session; Fahey is very much in the foreground and a number of the pieces read, essentially, as solo performances. It opens with "Steamboat Gwine 'Round de Bend," as gorgeous an example of Fahey's slide guitar work as he ever recorded, languid, soulful, and profound. Similarly, his medley of "Deep River" and "Ol' Man River" is steeped in Delta humidity, lazily floating downstream. The tracks with the brass band raise the ghosts of Dixieland, while some of the string accompaniment may recall Van Morrison. In any event, Fahey, major label or not, is simply himself, leisurely rolling along, sharply perceptive in his observations and sumptuously gorgeous in his evocations. A fine effort and certainly something that belongs on the shelves of any fan of the late, very great guitarist. ~ Brian Olewnick, All Music Guide

1. Steamboat Gwine 'Round De Bend
2. Medley: Deep River/Ol' Man River
3. Dixie Pig Bar-B-Q Blues
4. Texas And Pacific Blues
5. Funeral Song For Mississippi John Hurt
6. Medley: By The Side Of The Road/I Come, I Come
7. Lord Have Mercy
8. Song

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 11, 2001)
  • Original Release Date: 1972
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Collector's Choice
  • ASIN: B00005MHV3
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,220 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 4, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Although I have since obtained a slew of great John Fahey albums, several better than OF RIVERS AND RELIGION, this one retains a special place in my heart. Partly this is because it was the first John Fahey album I ever purchased. I was seized by it immediately. It isn't quite like any other album I had heard either before or since. Compared to his other albums, it isn't terribly virtuosic: Fahey isn't keen to put on display his utter masterly of complex and startling chord progressions and harmonics (though some do exist on the album; check out various breathtaking moments in his dobro work on "Steamboat 'Gwine the Bend"). This is dramatically toned-down Fahey, and not just on the numbers where he is accompanied by an "orchestra" of such instruments as banjo and mandolin. This album evokes a lazy river on a summer day, and the playing keeps that mood throughout.
A perfect example of what makes me love this album is "Dixie Pig BBQ Blues," where Fahey plays lazily, slowly, and deliberately to a background banjo and mandolin to create a sense of nostalgia that is almost palpable. Fahey plays even more restrained than usual, as if to confirm that the mood is the thing in the piece, not the virtuosic skills of the performers. The band is equally superb and comparably restrained on the magnificent "Funeral Song for Mississippi John Hurt."
One of the great regrets of my concert-going life is that I never heard John Fahey live. In recent years before his death, his health prevented him from performing anywhere, and when he was finally able to perform again, his health caused frequent cancellations. In the summer of 2000 I went to the Empty Bottle in Chicago hoping to hear him, but he had to cancel because of his health. He died not too long afterwards.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By jimnypivo VINE VOICE on October 5, 2006
Format: Audio CD
This disc is IMHO, one of Fahey's best in both execution and in vision. Time magazine agreed with me, when it named this recording to its Top Ten List of 1972. Unfortunately, the 2000 initial pressings didn't sell that well. I'm glad I bought one of them.

The first of two albums that John Fahey recorded for Reprise in the 1970's---`After the Ball' was the second. Both featured orchestral accompaniment by a crew of Dixieland jazz greats hand-picked by Fahey and producer Denny Bruce.

`Of Rivers and Religion' has only eight tracks, but each one is outstanding in a different way.

Track 1, `Steamboat Gwine Round de Bend' is a slow, sliding delta blues tune in which you can almost envision the steamboat drifting thru the turgid river on a hot Mississippi day. When I had this on vinyl, I'd turn down the tracking and play it even slower. Wish I could do that on my CD.

`Medley: Deep River/Ol' Man River' When Fahey plays hymns and sacred music, he seems to offer up his playing as in prayer, regardless of whatever beliefs John had at the time. Fahey loved medleys, and became particularly adroit at blending tunes together. I believe Kottke picked that up from him. The medleys on this disc are two of JF's finest.

`Dixie Pig Bar-B-Q Blues' An elegantly arranged piece of deliberate, fingerpicking guitar accompanied by 4-string banjo strumming ,mandolin, and fiddle, all of them interlacing their melodies, without colliding with each other.

`Texas and Pacific Blues': Dixieland instruments back a pair of slide guitar/dobros and 4-string banjo, while a trumpet plays the lead blues melody, as majestic and proud as a Preservation Hall performance.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Clifford Teapes on March 6, 2006
Format: Audio CD
This album may not be as consistently STRONG as some of Fahey's solo instrumental records, but it is the equal of any in inventiveness. John's use of a "folk" orchestra here seems prefectly appropriate, a worthwhile extension of his guitar style. Here the orchestra picks up where the moody, evocative overtones of John's solo guitar leave off. The orchestra's brass captures some of the very same moods and timbres Fahey's solo guitar captured on the earlier instrumental guitar records. Fahey really knew what he was doing when he put this orchestra behind him. Yes, his guitar work is a bit "buried" in the mix, but the sound has the same effect: haunting and very memorable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By greyhoundude on December 13, 2007
Format: Audio CD
This is truly one of Fahey's finest albums. Some tracks solo, some with a small "orchestra." yourself a favor and purchase the 2-fer on Rhino UK of OF RIVERS & RELIGION and AFTER THE BALL on a single disc. Really, you'll be much happier. It has Rhino's terrific re-mastering, courtesy of Bill Inglot (Collector's Choice seems to have done a simple transfer with no re-mastering), much more complete liner notes, courtesy of Sid Griffin, and a slipcase. At this writing it's available right here on Amazon USA -- you don't even need to pay the import shipping.
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