The Legend of Blind Joe Death

On Doing An Evil Deed Blues
1964 Sleeve note says: Originally composed by Fahey in remorse and guilt at having committed an evil deed.
Fahey: "I wrote this after I broke up with a girlfriend. I felt guilty because she liked me a lot more than I liked her, and I went home and wrote this. There's a lot of Robert Johnson in this piece. Standard tuning, key of A."
The Robert Johnson is mostly from "Kind Hearted Woman Blues".
St. Louis Blues
(W.C. Handy) First version released as a single by Fonotone. Handy (1873 - 1958 - lived to hear Little Richard!) published his famous first-ever-blues song on 11 September 1914. The chorus was taken from an earlier (1913) composition called "The Jogo Blues".
Fahey's version is based to some extent on Weaver and Beasley's.
Poor Boy Long Ways From Home
(Trad) Formerly titled "Pat Sullivan Blues". 25 years later retitled "Steve Talbot on the Keddie Way". As stated elsewhere, this one is not to be confused with versions of "Poor Boy" (e.g. by Banjo Joe) which use this title just because everyone else does.
JF's version is close to the standard guitar piece "Vestopol" ( Elizabeth Cotten may be JF's model). He would also have been familiar with versions by Barbecue Bob, Frank Hutchison (under the title "K C Moan"), Cat Iron and Ramblin' Thomas (under the title "Poor Boy Blues").
Uncloudy Day
A well-known country hymn which used more than one tune. Fahey's tune is that also used by the Staple Singers and others.
1964 sleeve note : Learned by Death in his youth at a primitive Baptist church in the Etruscan River Valley Delta Basin Region of Tunica County, Mississippi.
John Henry
(Trad) Everybody recorded this, one of the two or three best-known American folk ballads. JF's version is from "99 Year Blues" by Julius Daniels (see Anthology of American Folk Music). Note: there are two John Henry songs, this one and "Nine Pound Hammer" which Fahey (and everyone) also recorded. (see Voice of the Turtle).
In Christ There Is No East Or West
This tune is from a hymn originally called "The Angels Changed My Name", first published 1881 in a book commemorating a tour by The Jubilee Singers. They were a choir of former slaves and their children, based at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. The modern lyrics date from 1908.
For an account of the fascinating Fisk Singers, see "Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music" by Benjamin Filene, p27-32.
Glenn Jones in the notes to The Legend of Blind Joe Death: "His new take of the Episcopal hymn "In Christ There Is No East or West" would become the most well-known and oft-played song on the album. (I heard the song dozens of times throughout the early '70s as background music for the scriptural musings of the pious-voiced narrator of Thoughts for Tomorrow, metropolitan New York's nightly televised sermonette. This low budget bromide was the last thing beamed out to bleary-eyed insomniacs before the station shut down its transmitter in the wee hours of the morning.)"
The Transcendental Waterfall
A three minute version of this, JF's first tone poem, was released as a Fonotone single in 1958. The following year, it had doubled its length. By 1964 it peaked at nearly 11 minutes, but it was down to 6 ½ minutes by 1967.
The release of The Legend of Blind Joe Death caused some controversy when Glenn Jones' wonderful notes claimed that "the recording of 'The Transcendental Waterfall' used on BJD III was the one recorded for BJD II with about 4 minutes lopped off". Fahey scholars applied their ears to their headphones and quickly decided that this was what's known as "an error". The 59, 64 and 67 versions are all different. The Legend of Blind Joe Death includes the 1964 version only, which, after all, was the right decision as there was no space on the single cd for the other versions, and the 1967 version is far easier to find.
JF [from notes to the Return of the Repressed]: So I fiddled with blues and ragtime and all that stuff but all the time I was secretly, behind everyone's back, composing things for the orchestra. I was trying to make the guitar sound like an orchestra because I was listening to classical music all the time too.
So by the release of BJDII in 1964 Fahey is already pointing towards the vast tone poems of Fare Forward Voyagers, nine years later.
Desperate Man Blues
1964 sleeve note: Follows roughly the theme of "John Hardy" and Sibelius' 7th Symphony.
The incomparable Carter Family version, "John Hardy was a Desperate Little Man", is on the Anthology of American Folk Music by Harry Smith
West Coast Blues
A Blind Blake tune recorded for the 1959 edition and later discarded. An outtake of the tune recorded in 1964 was added to the cd Legend rerelease but the 1959 version is so much more charmingly metronomic, (or may we say metrognomic). Since complete hole-free bootlegs of the 59 edition are readily available it's odd that the outtake was used.

The Editions of Blind Joe Death

The notes included in the reissue The Legend of Blind Joe Death are confused in one respect (see The Transcendental Waterfall) but the confusion is cleared up by Claudio Guerrieri (Handbook vol 1, p 185). There were three separate editions of BJD issued. Which songs were rerecorded in 1964 and then again in 1967?

The 3rd edition is easy—every track was rerecorded in 1967—for the purpose of reissuing the album in stereo for the first time and because in 1967 Fahey could play everything much better.

So that leaves the difference between the first two.

The following 1959 recordings were reproduced on the 2nd edition:

Poor Boy Long Ways From Home

Uncloudy Day

John Henry

Desperate Man Blues

Sun Gonna Shine In My Back Door Some Day

Sligo River Blues

The 1959 St Louis Blues was also reproduced minus 35 seconds of the introduction.

West Coast Blues was omitted from the 2nd edition. Fahey spins a yarn about it not being available because of a bullet hole in the remaining copy of the first edition they were using, but bootleggers cast doubt on this tale as they have had the 1959 recording preserved since, well, 1959.

So finally the songs which were rerecorded for the 2nd edition:

In Christ there is no East or West

The Transcendental Waterfall (expanding the original 6 minute version to 10 minutes)

On Doing an Evil Dead Blues