American Primitivism: From Fahey to Rose
by Justin Farrar | April 15, 2013
Archaic country blues and Southern string-band music reconstructed via post-everything, East-meets-West globalism, wherein the Mississippi and Ganges, the Piedmont and the Aravalli all magically melt into one another ... that, in essence, is what John Fahey referred to as American primitivism. An iteration of progressive folk primarily (but not always) employing acoustic six- and 12-string guitar and finger-style picking, it was kick-started by the legendary maverick and record collector over a string of releases on his Takoma Records label in the late '60s and early '70s.
Though Fahey is indeed the music's Mighty Creator, other early pioneers include Leo Kottke, Peter Lang, Robbie Basho and the recently rediscovered Harry Taussig (whose excellent Fate Is Only Twice LP was reissued by archival specialists Tompkins Square last year). In recent years, American primitivism has witnessed a much-welcomed influx of fresh blood, from Glenn Jones and Paul Metzger (who works with modified banjo) to James Blackshaw and William Tyler. But far and away the music's most vital modern practitioner was the late and great Jack Rose, a beast of a guitarist who sadly passed away in 2009. Here's a quick primer.