The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death

Editor’s note: GW = George Winston, from his detailed sleeve notes to the cd reissue.

Beautiful Linda Getchell
From American and Spanish Fandango by R B Smith and S J Allgood. (Composer credit: Fahey/Smith)
GW: A beautiful melodic waltz, in standard tuning, key of C, co-composed with L. Mayne Smith who plays rhythm banjo on the piece. This is interesting because John rarely played with anyone on his early recordings. Note the nice C suspended fourth chord and distinctive picking pattern by John.
These are two small towns directly east of Berkeley, California. Fahey spotted the names conjoined on a freeway sign.
GW: This song is in open D major tuning (D-A-D-F#-A-D). John often uses a technique that he invented - a rapid roll where the thumb plays the sixth string, the index finger plays the third string, the middle finger plays the second string, and the thumb plays the fourth string. Orinda-Moraga is bluesy, dissonant, slightly ragaesque, and at times starkly impressionistic.
The only time Orinda has hit the headlines was some time in the 1990s : “The shooting was the second time this month that a dog-lover has been killed by his pet. Police officers in the California town of Orinda said last week that a Rhodesian ridgeback had accidentally run over its master by putting his parked car into gear as he walked in front of it.”
I Am The Resurrection
GW: Played on steel guitar, lap style, in a drone tuning John invented using all tonic and fifth notes (D-G-D-G-G-D). This song features another technique that John invented – a double strum using two different fingers going from the high strings to the low strings. This song is inspired in part by Hark from the Tomb by bluesman Jesse Fuller (GW).
On The Sunny Side Of The Ocean
JF in 1983: It’s kind of an abstract melody line. Yet you feel like there is a melody. It really is an implied melody.
GW: One of John’s truly classic compositions in open G major tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D). This song again has his signature rapid picking roll. It is beautiful and impressionistic, yet slightly bluesy and dissonant.
Title is Fahey’s play on the Hank Snow hit The Sunny Side of the Mountain.
Tell Her To Come Back Home
GW: This piece, in standard tuning, key of C, features another Fahey invention: backward picking where the third string is played on the first and third beats and the lower pitched fifth string, which is normally played on the first and third beats, is instead played on the second and fourth beats. The introduction is by John and the second part is by early country music pioneer, banjo player, and Grand Ole Opry star, Uncle Dave Macon. This song was also known as a square dance piece entitled Cindy.
My Station Will Be Changed After While
Mysteriously absent from the DDD notes.
GW: This improvised composition is in D 'modal' tuning (D-A-D-G-A-D), and the title is religious in nature. Again the backwards picking style is used.
Malcolm Kirton notes: This is a gospel song, recorded (among others) by Uncle Dave Macon. The song is credited on the label to Macon/Fahey. The piece under this title on "Transfiguration" is a medley of two songs: Willie Moore and (the second part) My Station Will Be Changed. Possibly this piece is the one listed in DDD 23 as Willie Moore. The melody of Willie Moore is the same one used for the well-known folk song Jesse James.
101 Is A Hard Road To Travel
The chorus of Uncle Dave Macon’s song goes “Oh pull off your overcoat and roll up your sleeves/ Oh Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel I believe”. According to Cohen & Seeger the tune is “traceable to a minstrel tune by Dan Emmett” and was parodied many times
GW: The first section is in standard tuning, key of C, capoed up two frets to the sound of the key of D. It is based on Jordan Is a Hard Road to Travel by Uncle Dave Macon. The second part, a Fahey composition, again featuring his rapid picking roll, is in open G major with no capo (GW).
How Green Was My Valley
GW: This bluesy piece is played in slide guitar, lap style, and is in open G major tuning.
Bicycle Built For Two
GW: Composed in 1892 by Harry Dacre, an Englishman. This turn-of-the-century standard is played in standard tuning, key of C, with the tonic C chord often played with the fifth note, G, in the bass. This was also common in the blues guitar tradition – the playing of the fifth (or the third) of the chord as the bass note while muting it with the side of the right hand.
Possibly Fahey was inspired to record this by hearing Merle Travis’s turbocharged fingerpicked version back in the 1950s.
The Death Of The Clayton Peacock
IFC staff member Paul Bryant writes: This is the first thing by Fahey I ever heard, on John Peel’s “Top Gear” show on BBC Radio One, way way back in 1969. It was pretty much the strangest thing I’d ever heard. It had the effect of slowing you right down to a dead stop. You had to hear it again.
JF in 1969 [on the Guitar Guitar TV show, released on video]: “I used to live in Mount Diablo and I’d ride into school every morning, and there was a lady who raised peacocks, and she had one peacock left.
JF in 1994 expanded a little: “A lady named Mrs DeJesus raised peacocks there, and they kept getting hit until there was only one left.”) Then it got run over one morning, and it laid in the street for two or three days, then somebody cut its tail off. I was very upset.” Interviewer: “And so you wrote a song about it.” JF: “Well, no, but it made a good title.”
Brenda’s Blues
GW: This is a beautiful and unique ragtime piece, in standard tuning, key of C, capoed up the third fret to sound in the key of E-flat. This song begins with a unique chord progression (given here in the key of C) with the IV 6 chord (F 6th), to the flat VI 7 chord (A-flat 7th with an E-flat in the bass), to the tonic I chord (C), to the VI 7 chord (A 7th), to the IV 6 chord (F 6th), to the V 7 (G7), to the I tonic chord (C)
Old Southern Medley
GW: This medley starts with Old Black Joe and progresses to Camptown Races, both by Stephen Foster. The third theme is Some of These Days I’ll Be Gone, by the great and most influential Mississippi Delta blues guitarist, singer, and composer, Charley Patton. Patton recorded this in November 1929. John adds a second part to the Patton theme, playing high thirds on the two highest pitched strings. The medley ends with Dixie, composed by Daniel Decatur Emmett in the mid-1800s. In open C major tuning (C-G-C-G-C-E).
Many people recorded medleys of Southern melodies. We cite Dad Massey, Ford Hanson, Len and Joe Higgins, Riley Puckett and Charley Poole.
Come Back Baby
GW: This traditional piece, in open D major tuning, uses the classic eight-bar blues chord progression (here D-D7-G-B-flat D-A-D-A). This is another duet with L. Mayne Smith playing blues licks on banjo answering John’s slide guitar phrases. This version was inspired by Country Paul who recorded for King Records in the 1950s.
This tune belongs to the How Long/Sitting on Top of the World family. Cf Snooks Eaglin’s version.
Poor Boy
GW: A classic Vestapol type piece by the late great Mississippi bluesman Booker T. (Bukka) Washington White, for which John composed the bridge. This song is in open D major tuning, a tuning often called “Vestapol,” especially by blues players.
Saint Patrick’s Hymn
Traditional Irish melody first published in 1885 .
GW: One of John’s many signatures is arranging hymns. Saint Patrick’s Hymn is an Anglican and Roman Catholic hymn for communion, attributed to Saint Patrick .