February 11, 1997

Album Review

Bitterness was an ever increasing component of John Fahey's music later in his career, and perhaps never more so than on City of Refuge. The titles of the final two tracks give one a sense of his approach here. As on several past occasions, Fahey uses overlays of tapes and samples, almost all of which are bleak, harsh, and alien, subverting any "pleasant" associations his own folk and blues-based playing might have. When, about halfway through "City of Refuge I," Fahey plays what might normally seem an upbeat and sunny melody, he tears at it brutally, essentially laughing at its pretensions. The entire last cut, a venom-filled letter directed toward the "movement" that sometimes claimed him as one of their own, sounds as though it was recorded in a wasp's nest. Only the ghostly and striking "Hope Slumbers Eternal" has remnants of his more earthy and melodic music, often sounding reminiscent of Harry Partch's writing for kithara. Although guaranteed to irritate Fahey fans who only think of him as a "pretty" folk guitarist, City of Refuge is a mature and deep (if misanthropic) work, and one that deserves to be heard.
Brian Olewnick, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Fanfare
  2. The Mill Pond
  3. Chelsey Silver, Please Come Home
  4. City of Refuge I
  5. City of Refuge III
  6. Hope Slumbers Eternal
  7. On the Death and Disembowelment of the New Age