Saturday, December 22, 2012

Michael Wohl-demo (2012)

John Fahey is one of the great under-appreciated American folk heroes. He was more legit and had more integrity than any of the British Blues assholes whose whole careers were based on ripping off Robert Johnson, and he was probably a better guitar player than Clapton (fuck that guy anyways.."tears in heaven," my ass!). He's probably my second-favorite guitarist after Django Reinhardt.

So it's refreshing to hear a new take on the Fahey sound on this 4-song demo by Mike Wohl, who hails from Seattle by way of Chicago. I don't really have the musical vocabulary required to intelligently discuss this-Mike's work, like a lot of Fahey's, is so intricate that it's hard for a musical illiterate like myself to describe; this review is mostly imagistic. But I enjoy this thing, which is more important for those of us not as steeped in the blues and Americana as dood is.

"Long After We are dead" is a spry piece of cheerful guitar work. It conjures up an image of walking down a dirt road somewhere in Mississippi or Alabama in the July heat, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, on yr way to pick blueberries. Which I've never done, but it sounds delightful, and "Long After We are Dead" is a sunny idyll that'll set you off down the dirt road (blues). "No Ticket Blues" is slightly more meditative, lilting along in a way that reminds me of Skip James; to my completely non-technical ears, it sounds like a more upbeat re-working of "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues." "Poor Boy Long Way from Home" is, of course, a blues standard: Fahey adopted it from Mississippi John Hurt. Wohl does as good a job as anyone alive in 2012 can. He uses the heavier strings to effectively create a rhythm, plucking minor notes to fill out the song's pattern; at times he's hitting the strings so hard and crisp, it sounds like there's a very quiet drummer in the background.

The coolest song here, as far as I'm concerned, is "Melatonin Blues/Fever Dream." It's a sprawling, ramshackle 6-minute collage of found chords, improvised patterns, and desultory riffing. It's a collage of various pieces that didn't fit into complete songs, but brought together, they create a compelling ambiance all their own that's great for getting fuckin' weird to.

Listen to the demo here. 
The demo is great for spring, when you can move around outside, but I've found it's also a great accompaniment for watching the rain at 1 am, chainsmoking and drinking gin.

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